It is Christmas. We have an almost-eight-month-old. It’s a bad combination.20131215-154413.jpg

As we started decorating for Christmas this year, I forced myself to scale back. Partly because of the knowledge that the baby could start crawling at any moment, and how much time do I really want to spend chasing a baby?

Also, though, because of the hassle.

Isn’t that awful? To look at these things as a hassle? But when I pulled out the lights we usually hang with our garland on our porch, and half were burned out, I didn’t even bother. I just piled everything back in the box and thought maybe next year.

The tree is up. The Nativity scene is up. The Advent calendar is up. The wreath on the door is up. I checked in with my oldest as I was reigning it in, and asked if there was anything else he Really Wanted to put up; if there was anything he would Truly Miss if it wasn’t out. Verdict: the light-up houses. So we set up our seven little Dickens’ Village houses on top of the piano and I put them on a timer so I didn’t even have to turn them on in the morning. Then I put my red glass hurricane candleholder on the kitchen island and called it good.

That doesn’t really sound all that simple, I know. It’s scaled down for us.  I’m looking at this year as a test: will I miss it? If I don’t get it out, if I don’t put it up, will I even care that it’s gone? If I don’t miss it, am I prepared to send it out the door before next Christmas rolls around? Will I really miss all the “stuff?”

Well…yes.

I made it a full week before I decided I really wanted the garland hanging on our stair banister. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten used to it; it’s been with us through the last two houses. That’s almost ten years worth of greenery hung with red tartan plaid ribbons.

Now we’re driving through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights, and I’m feeling like a Scrooge. We usually have candles in all our front windows, and I hang a little greenery with white lights on our small front porch. The practical side of me is screaming, she’s going to start crawling! You don’t want to have to watch all those cords! You don’t want to have to deal with burnt out bulbs! But guess what? I really, really miss our lights. A wreath on the door just doesn’t cut it.

And honestly, if you’re going to have anything on display at Christmas, shouldn’t it be lights?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…–Isaiah 9:2

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:4-5

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… –John 1:9,12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.–John 8:12

I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness –John 12:46

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light… –Ephesians 5:8

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…–I John 1:7

The Lord is my light and salvation–whom shall I fear? –Psalm 27:1

Yes….even if you’re going to have a scaled-down Christmas, you should probably keep the lights.

 

 

Advertisements

A belated Thanksgiving

December 15, 2013

I feel bad for my lack of Thanksgiving posts.  The entire month of November, when everyone on Facebook is posting all the things they’re thankful for, I stayed quiet.  Then I didn’t even blog Thanksgiving week at all; when I get busy, writing is the first thing to go (in spite of the fact that it helps me stay sane).  Topping things off, my latest post was a bit of a rant.  That’s what happens, though, when I dwell on something for such a ridiculously long time that it finally just bursts out that way.

But I am thankful.  I think, if I posted thirty days worth of “I’m thankful for…”, two things would stand out.  One is how thankful I am for really petty things.  That first cup of coffee in the morning?  Unbelievably thankful for it.  (I’ve noticed my thankfulness for that particular cup rises in direct proportion to how early I get up.)  A temperamental hot water heater means I’m thankful for a hot shower in the morning, as compared to the warm-ish ones we often get.  Lacking a garage for much of our married life means I still, ten years after getting one, think how grateful I am that I don’t have to scrape a windshield on a bitter morning.  A baby who leans toward thirty-minute naps means I’m beyond grateful when she sleeps for an hour and a half.  We had dinner with friends last Sunday after church, and managed to drive around to see some neighborhood Christmas lights last night, and most importantly, the baby TOOK A BOTTLE in the nursery at church this morning, all of which point to a turning point in babyhood:  the Ability to Have a Life again.  I’m incredibly thankful for that.

See?  Petty.

The other thing that would stand out is how repetitive my thanks would be.  Family, current and extended, would feature prominently and often.  I’m so grateful for growing up in a loving home, in a two-parent family that even now has two parents.  I’m thankful for my sweet husband, who puts up with my quirks (ahem….understatement) and loves me anyway; who is a great dad with all our kids, including the baby.  I’m really thankful for that; when he walks upstairs after work and I essentially throw the baby at him and say here….your turn, and he takes over with a smile.

I’m thankful for my oldest.  I’m thankful for the sense of humor he’s developing; people ooh and ahh over the toddler and preschool days (me included) and talk about paying attention and savoring every moment, and now I’m looking at this ten year old and thinking, they don’t tell you this is fun, too.  Having a kid with a real sense of humor–who not only gets your jokes, but can make you truly laugh, too–it’s amazing to watch what these little ones turn into.

I’m not thankful for his anxiety, but I’m thankful that those problems led us to homeschooling.  I’m thankful for watching him relax a little and enjoy life again.

I’m thankful for my oldest daughter, for her energy and enthusiasm and constant motion.  I’m thankful for the sheer joy she brings to her schooling, for the moments like when she learned about why trees change color in the fall and she looked at me with eyes shining and said, “It’s like the trees are keeping a secret all year!”  (Admittedly, the pendulum can swing quite extremely the other way, also….)

I’m thankful for her silliness; she was the one who taught her brother to laugh, all those years ago.

And I’m so thankful for the baby.  I’m thankful that she’s a happy baby, that she sleeps as well as she does, that she is usually so mellow….I’m thankful that I finally understand what it means to have an “easy baby.”  I’m grateful and beyond surprised at how much “the bigs” love this baby.  I knew my daughter would do well, her mothering instinct is strong; but watching my son fawn over her was so unexpected I still–seven and a half months in–whisper prayers of thankfulness when I see them together.

I will never forget the photographer taking pictures of my sister’s family with ours.  She very carefully kept trying to position the baby with my sister.  It made sense:  ten and eight year old together, two-ish little one (my niece) with the baby.  My sister briefly explained the situation and then, leaning in to the photographer, laughingly announced, “Surprise!!”  The photographer shook her head and did her hands in a motion that was half “Praise the Lord” and half “Raise the Roof”:  “No,” she stated firmly, “Blessings.  BLESSINGS.”

And she is right.  That baby has been the most unexpected blessing of all.

So, yes, I’m thankful.  And I’m happy for this thankfulness to carry through Christmas.

Good enough, Part 2

November 20, 2013

Older daughter:  Mommy, why are there smiley faces in the dust at the base of the computer?

Me:  Because your brother thought it would be funny to draw smiley faces in the dust at the base of the computer.

 

After my (thankfully internal) response to my daughter watching me just sit, I started to wonder: how much is enough when it comes to housework? It’s different, obviously, when you’re up and able-bodied and not wandering around in a slightly zombified state due to lack of sleep; the state of the house post-partum is absolutely allowed to be different than the state of the house with a reasonably well-rested mom. I’d spent months thinking about and writing about simplifying “stuff;” now I was forced to simplify–or at least prioritize–housework. And I had to really commit to something, instead of just pondering ideas in an abstract way. My final verdict:

If it’s vital to the smooth running of the household, it gets done. Dishes, laundry, meals: yes. The family needs to be clothed and fed; those few things are not optional. (Who did the cooking was absolutely negotiable….whether that be my husband, Planet Sub, or me. Usually in that order.)

If it didn’t involve those few things, it could go. The family would pitch in at some points, but we still often had copious amounts of dog fur all over the floors, and a fine coating of dust all over the furniture. (Except the dining room table…there was a fine coating of Legos all over the dining room table.)

The baby is now six months old, and I’m feeling much more human now. We had my daughter’s birthday party at the end of September, my son’s at the end of October, and we’ve even had people over a few times for fun. The house has improved greatly, now that I’m not coma-mama. But for that little bit of time, that was what I needed: just enough, to be good enough.

Stupid time change….

I’m noticing more people have finally realized that even though “fall back” is supposed to mean an extra hour of sleep, it means just the opposite for those with small children.  While everyone else is looking forward to the shift, those of us with little ones know it means absolutely nothing besides now the kids will be up at five instead of six.

What I failed to consider was how the evenings would look.  We have a baby who goes to bed at six o’clock at night; on a really good night I might be able to keep her up until six-thirty.  Now, with the end of daylight savings, I have a baby that really wants to go to bed at five.

I know it will only take a few days to get her back to where we were (or at least close to where we were), but today I thought we had hope because she’d taken a third nap and slept until four in the afternoon.  Four!!  Making it until six should be easy; it’s only two hours!

I should have known when she woke up screaming that it wasn’t going to work.  We made it through a very high-maintenance evening (please know, she it not a high-maintenance baby!!) and finally, with dinner over, I was facing clean-up.  She was done.  DONE.  Unfortunately, my husband was done, too, as he was working overtime and had to disappear into his “office” in the basement.  I plopped the baby down in the living room with her bucket of toys, handed her a few of them, and kept talking to her as I ran back to the sink to at least get the leftovers put away.  Dirty dishes could wait, but I wasn’t risking losing leftovers to a sneaky (and astoundingly agile) dog.

Ravioli dished out and put away:  check.

Garlic bread stacked up and put away:  check.

Every last pot, pan, and plate piled in the sink away from potential puppy disaster:  check.

I raced back into the living room, where the baby had never really stopped crying.  I took one look at her and every last ounce of irritation melted away from me as I realized she had managed to reach over and around every single toy I’d attempted to appease her with….and grab her blanket.  There she sat, thumb in her mouth, blanket pulled to her cheek, tears still running down her face.  My poor, exhausted baby!

As I rocked her and nursed her that night I thought about how even a six-month-old knew exactly what was most important to her.  How even she, as an infant, was able to cut through all the “stuff” and reach for the one thing she knew would help.  She didn’t want any of that other “stuff;” she wanted That One Thing that was her comfort; that would get her through until her struggle was over.  She wanted her blanket.

What’s your One Thing?

There’s no thirsting for the things
Of the world—they’ve taken wings.
Long ago I gave them up, and instantly
All my night was turned to day,
All my burdens rolled away.
Now the Comforter abides with me.

He abides, He abides.
Hallelujah, He abides with me!
I’m rejoicing night and day
As I walk the narrow way,
For the Comforter abides with me.

–from He  Abides, Herbert Buffum

Good enough

October 27, 2013

I forgot how much you sit with a baby.  How often there’s really nothing you can do besides…sit, and hold a baby.  After about two months at home with a newborn, I found myself curled up in “my spot” on the sofa (again), holding a nursing baby (again).  This third little one is not too keen on naps; even then, she never seemed to sleep for very long.  For a few weeks, her late-afternoon nap ritual involved me nursing her to sleep and then holding her.  Transferring her to a crib guaranteed waking her up; holding her not only guaranteed sleep but, potentially, a real nap instead of the cat-naps she enjoyed so much.

So there I sat, holding a sleeping baby.  Just….sitting.  And holding a baby.  And in danced my older daughter, who came to a halt in front of me.

“Is the baby asleep?” she whispered.

Yes, I whispered back.

“And you’re just sitting there?” she whispered.

Yes, I whispered back.

She cocked her head to one side, surveying the scene.  I bit my tongue to hold back the dozens of excuses that were wanting to spill out of me; all the reasons I wasn’t doing all the things I should be doing besides sitting and holding a baby.

She straightened up tall.  “You’re a good mom,” she announced, and pranced back out of the room.

The floors that needed to be swept, the rugs to be vacuumed, the laundry to be put away, the dishes to be done, the schoolwork to be prepped, the papers to be graded…the list, in my head, was never-ending.  I suppose, though, that those things would be the definition of a “good housekeeper,” or a “good teacher.”  I didn’t have the time or the energy to be any of those things.  For those few months, being a mom was pretty much all I could do.

I’m thrilled she thought I was a good one.

Over the course of the last year I’ve had the opportunity to peek into at least three different nurseries of three different mothers, whether in real life or through photos on Facebook.  It wasn’t until the third that I really noticed it:  this vaguely familiar feeling; the I think I’ve been here before…but no… moment; the why does this ring a bell?  thoughts.  It all clicked when I complimented one of the moms on a wall hanging and she said, “Thanks!  I found the idea on Pinterest!”

Aha!  That’s it.  Everyone had taken all the same ideas and made them their own:  each room was different; and yet, each room was sort of the same.

Well, I’m not on Pinterest.  I waste enough time online without needing to get sucked in to something that I fully recognize could take over my life.  So the baby’s room fails to meet the “shared on Pinterest” criteria.  But….the baby’s room is done.  It’s actually completed (even though it didn’t get painted until she was three months old).  Back in January I wouldn’t have guaranteed any of that.  And last fall I was a basket case, because, as I kept having to tell people, we have nothing.

“Wow!  Your other two are really old!  Do you even have any baby stuff left?”  That was pretty much the response of pretty much anyone who talked to me about our little surprise blessing.  And my response, to each of them, was always the same:

No, we moved when my daughter was two and didn’t want to move all the baby stuff since were weren’t having any more…..all we have are two umbrella strollers.  We don’t even have a crib–it broke in the move.

Then my response started to change.

It started with a sweet friend from church asking me if I had any maternity clothes.  No, and I was loathe to buy them, knowing I’d never wear them again.  So in came three bins of clothing for me to use, completely free; originally on loan but (after some thoughtful consideration 😉 ) simply given.  My entire maternity purchases were a few pairs of jeans from Goodwill.  (I hadn’t even known there was a maternity section at Goodwill.)

Next up:  dinner with my college roommate and her husband.  She asked about our adoption plans, and when we told her–as we’d told our caseworker–that we had a “situation,” she got it immediately.

“A growing situation?” she asked. Yep.

“Do you even have any baby stuff?”  Nope.

She then offered us all of her baby stuff, left from her now-preschool son; after coming to the conclusion that they wouldn’t be having any more, she was trying to figure out how to get rid of it all.  (I believe her actual words were, “Back up the truck, baby….it’s all yours!”)

So a few weeks later, when another friend asked “Do you even have any baby stuff?”  I got to try out a new response:  Funny story…. By the end, I said something like, …and all we need to buy is a crib!  We have everything else we need!

To which she responded, “Do you want a crib?”

Are you kidding me?

We have acquired, to date, a crib, changing table, two changing pads (with covers), a bassinet, a car seat (plus two bases), a stroller (that works with the car seat), two baby bathtubs, one bouncy seat, one infant “seat,” one floor play mat, one swing, and numerous toys and blankets.  This doesn’t take into account the amazing amount of clothes loaned to me by my sister; from my niece, who is just over a year older than our baby girl.  And it turns out we didn’t actually have “nothing:”  I had my older daughter’s crib bedding, which I’d listed on Craigslist twice and which–somehow–never sold.  (Thank goodness it was a girl!)

I could spin this and talk about how budget-friendly our nursery is.  Or how “green” I am, with all this used stuff.  The reality, though, is that when we had a need, God provided.  When I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of starting over, especially since we weren’t planning on doing the whole baby thing again, God took care of the “stuff” situation, and helped me realize how He was present in the entire “baby” situation.

I am so unbelievably thankful to all the people who made my little one’s room.  Each and every day I see these things, and am reminded of God’s provision and friends’ willingness to help.  I can’t imagine a better way to decorate a nursery.