Friday, December 28, 2012


Holy cow, am I tired!!

(No, that's not me in the picture.  You can tell by the manicured nails and the lipstick.  Do you know when the last time I had either of those things on me was?  Try never!  But that is a frighteningly accurate depiction of what's happening to me today!)

I ran myself pretty ragged leading up to Christmas, trying to make everything perfect of course.  I traded sleep for things like wrapping, cleaning, baking, planning, crafting, etc.  Combine that with the darkness this time of year, a side of stress and anxiety, and I am just wiped out.

We had either 20 or 21 people in our little house for Christmas.  I lost count.  It was very cramped, but as far as I know, everyone had a good time and there was lots of laughter and joy.  That made all the work worth it!  My uncle supplied a big old hunk of prime rib which turned out amazing in my oven.  It was just the reward I needed after all the work I put into getting ready for the day.  Nothing got burnt (including my hands or arms!), nothing was dropped or ruined, dinner was relatively on time, gifts were enjoyed, children squealed with delight.  It was all I could have asked for and more.

After the last guest departed on Christmas evening, I plopped down on the couch, completely spent.  I was asleep by 8:45.  I woke up at 9:30 long enough to trudge up the stairs to bed, where I stayed until 7:45 the next morning.  Truthfully, I could've slept until noon, but I have a two year old who had other plans!  It seems like I haven't been able to get really rested anytime since.  I'm sure it's coming - I just have to get there!

Santa was good to us this year.  He brought me a new lens for my camera, which I have only been able to play with a little bit, but which I am enjoying immensely anyway.  He brought hubby a beautiful framed print with a whole lot of sentimental meaning, and he brought the kidlet a whole bunch of new toys!  We actually only bought him a few small things this year, knowing that he would be spoiled from every direction anyway. And he was!  We still haven't opened up all the new toys he got, just because he hasn't had time to play with all of them.  I'm hoping for some down time this weekend to change that.

Speaking of down time, it's going to be above zero here for New Year's Eve and that is a rare treat!  The university here does a great fireworks show, which I've never been to, because it's usually too cold or we have other plans.  This year though, I plan to keep the kid up late (I think it starts at 8:00?) and go enjoy it!  I can't wait!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Memories

It's finally here!  Christmas Eve!

One of the (many!) reasons I love this time of the year so much is that it makes me feel like a kid again.  There are only two things that make me feel like I'm 8 years old again: Disney World and Christmas.  I get giddy and excited.  I love giving, and surprises, and kindness, and generosity, and joy, and having reasons to visit with those we hold dear... and Christmas wraps all of that into one season.

And, now that I am grown and have a child of my own, I have a whole new understanding and appreciation for all my parents sacrificed for us kids all year, and especially at Christmas.

I had a good childhood.  We had everything we needed, and a lot of what we wanted, in life.  Both of my parents worked throughout most of my school-age years.  I remember when Dad worked as a driver for a bakery, he'd be up and gone well before we rose in the morning.  It didn't matter how cold it was, or how tired he was - even when he was sick - he was up and off to work every day.  And for many years, Mom worked at a school bus company as a driver, a dispatcher, and eventually a manager of some sort.  I remember her working some 12-14 hour days, and that was hard.  But she had summers off with us kids for many years, and she took full advantage of that, which was awesome.

We weren't drowned in luxuries at Christmas time like some of our friends were.  I remember one year in particular that my 'big gift' was a really nice new coat that I desperately needed.  It was red and had a hood and it beat the pants off my old coat!  And when you live in Alaska, that's a big deal.  I like to think I wasn't jealous of my friends who had more extravagant Christmases; in fact, I don't remember being jealous, but I probably was, as kids so often are.

Point is, my parents worked their fingers to the bone and we knew exactly how much we were loved and treasured.  Maybe we didn't get snowmachines for Christmas like some other kids did, but we always knew that Mom and Dad the very best they could and I admire them to this day for that.  They certainly went without, many times, so that us kids would have a few more packages under the tree.  And now... I totally get it.  I get why it was okay that Mom and Dad only had one or two gifts apiece when my brother and I each had a big pile.

Nope, not a little boy!  That's me!

Turns out that's the whole nature of parenthood - it's a lot like the spirit of Christmas.  You give of yourself to make sure your kids are healthy, taken care of, and hopefully happy.  You wear your work shoes for a little longer so that your kid can have that nifty new thing that will put a smile on their face.  Six months later, you'll remember Christmas morning, and your feet won't even be a thought.

I thought I would share a few of my most loved Christmas memories with you... like how on Christmas Eve, after dinner, we would open a gift from my grandma who (still!) lives in Seattle.  She always sent us turtles from See's Candy, and usually another box full of homemade goodies too.  It was the only time all year that we got either of those things, so it was really a special treat.

And like how I would be so excited on Christmas Eve that even though I knew Santa wouldn't come until I was asleep, I would lay there awake nearly all night.  You see, we always had Christmas lights on the outside of the house, but they were shut off at bedtime to save electricity (that stuff is expensive here!).  But Christmas Eve was the one night that they were left on all night.  That was so special!  I would lay in bed and stare out the window at those giant multi-colored bulbs for hours, listening for the *thump* of Santa landing on the roof.

We weren't allowed to leave our bedrooms after lights-out on Christmas Eve night.  No exceptions... except if we had to pee.  Which, naturally, I had to do a lot.  Between dying to know if Santa had been there yet, and the fact that I was awake most of the night, I made a lot of trips to the bathroom.  (The bathroom was close enough to the living room that if I made a beeline, I could catch a very brief peek at the tree on the way!)  I cannot even tell you the number of times that my dad chased me back to my bedroom in his undies to make sure I wasn't peeking.

When the pre-arranged time came on Christmas morning that we were allowed to get up, I would fly into Mom and Dad's room and make the announcement.  Mom and Dad would groan at me and ask for more time.  I would say no and probably whine a lot.  (Now I know why they needed the time - they were completely exhausted from all the working, shopping, assembling and wrapping, baking, prepping, and chasing me back to my room 47 times during the night!  I finally get it!)  Eventually Mom would drag her tired self out of bed.  It was at that point that she'd tell me to go back to my room until a pot of coffee was ready.  Holy TORTURE!!  I would do it, only because I had no choice.  Finally, when the coffee was flowing and the kids were (undoubtedly) obnoxious, it would be time to open presents.  We usually did stockings first and then everything else.

I remember that gifts from Santa always came in special, fancy-looking paper.  I remember one year (or maybe more?) it was a beautiful red foil paper with some sort of pattern on it.  Even the paper seemed magical; there was no doubt which presents were from Santa!

In my younger years, we would head over to my grandparents' house after all our gifts were open, breakfast was eaten, showers were taken and toys were christened.  There we'd get together with all the extended family, have a casual Christmas dinner, and open more presents.  Grandma and Grandpa's house was extra fun at Christmas, too.  I swear their tree was 25' tall and professionally decorated.

Yup, that's me there in the red tights.  And my grandma taking pictures of me and my cousin.  Isn't that tree amazing?!  (Okay, I know, it's just a regular Christmas tree.  But it wasn't.  Grandma and Grandpa made it so much more.)

I could go on all day about all my amazing memories of Christmas.  Point is, maybe we didn't have the most extravagant things under our tree, but we had so much LOVE, all year and at Christmas.  My parents worked hard and made sure I knew what was important.  I can only hope I'm doing the same for my son.

To all of you, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I wish you ALL the best in 2013.

Thanks for keeping me in your circle this year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Moment of Comfort in a Sea of Mourning

I haven't posted anything about the senseless massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  I felt there was nothing I could say that hasn't been said.  And the last thing I'd want is to contribute to anything that started as sincere but has become cliche.  But my heart has been just shattered over it.  Not to mention the thought that this could happen to my child or his peers scares the bejeebers out of me.

I don't talk about my religious beliefs here much - if at all - because I feel like it's no one's business but mine.  But I saw this and had to share.  Regardless of your beliefs about God, about guns, about politics, about our education system or anything else, I hope you'll read this and find the same kind of comfort that I did when I read it. 

Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
they were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"this is heaven." declared a small boy. "we're spending Christmas at God's house."
when what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
those children all flew into the arms of their King
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
and as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"may this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"come now my children, let me show you around."
excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
and i heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

~Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

God bless these little angels.  All the way home.