Is it January yet?

A friend wrote me this week and said that the year her dad had died, she was ready for Christmas to be over early in December.   That kind of sums it up nicely for me at the moment.  I am so aware that there are a million blessings and my list of gratitude grows every week.  It’s not that I’m not thankful.  There have been totally sweet memories made that will be treasured.

But I keep waking up feeling like I’d just like to blink and have it be next year already.  My kids have new toys that I expected would keep them happy as I wrapped up all the infamous loose ends that always present themselves before big holidays.  But with the rain and cold and being inside, just with me, for days on end it more feels like they’re just climbing the walls.  Arguing about whose is whose and complaining every time they get asked to pick something up is their MO at the moment.

Two days ago they were even fighting about the nativity scene.  Shepherds were bashing into one another and baby Jesus went missing.  Without a word, I swept into the room, packed up the whole scene, put it in a bag and took it out of the house.  It was so not serene.  I felt guilty ushering the wisemen and angel and the rest of them out of my house.

It’s easy to blog and post the perfectness of life.  It’s certainly easier to read.  I tried to write a delightful Christmas greeting post since we totally missed the boat on Christmas cards this year.  But it just didn’t work.  I had lofty goals for celebrating Advent in a purposeful way this year, books to go through, an heirloom beautiful wooden candle wreath to light every night.  We were going to make a Jesse Tree.  The supplies are still sitting in my room, the how-to book unopened.  The same room I’ve been trying to clean for about a month.

Honestly, one of the only things that is propelling me forward at this point is daily doing something that isn’t for me…or for my presently-rather-ungrateful children who even dared to complain about the homemade breakfast I made for them the last 2 days in a row.  Something for someone who will be blessed, encouraged, loved in some way by something I can do.  I’ve written before about the many “can’t do” things when you have a bunch of little kids.  But there are always “can do” things.

One of my closest friends lost a baby last week, later than most miscarriages take place.  We had been so delighted to get to be pregnant at the same time.  It has been deeply sad.  So every day this week I’ve been cooking and baking food for her freezer.  I can’t get in my car and go hang out for the day with her and help clean her house.  I can’t mend her heart.  But I can love her with food.  And in turn, I feel a tiny sense of purpose that gets me from sunrise to dinner somehow still standing.

The big picture is too big for me today.  All the large, amazing truths that I know and try to live by are wonderful.  But they just feel…so big, so out there.

So I look at the tiny picture.  And I do the tiny things, one step at a time.  I am a happily-obsessive-list-maker.  They make me feel productive and organized and good.  But I’m finding that navigating the season this time around can’t be relegated to my lists.

List-free, loving the only ways I’m able, taking tiny steps and crossing days off the calendar.  That’s the way we’ll get to January.  Heck that’s how we’ll get to tomorrow!

Making room for the new

Though there is something wonderful about doing the same things every year-kids and grow ups alike (at least me) enjoy some amount of predictability.   But there is also (we’re learning) something to be said for be flexible and open to forging new paths when needed.  For ten years we’ve headed downtown into the city to see lights, look at window displays, ride the holiday carousel, etc.  One year we even took a ride on a horse and carriage.  Though it is still lovely, some things have changed.  Namely, the amount of children we bring with us!  Even with strollers, front packs, snacks and a good plan…it did not turn out to be the dreamy time it used to be.

We left this year thinking it might be time for a new tradition, who knows what, but the text my sister sent me on her drive home was “Remind of this day when I say I want to go next year!” as her kids screamed most of the way home.  Two of ours did too.  Times change and tradition sometimes need to evolve into something that will be fun for all.   We joked that we go to all this trouble, try hard to take fun pictures and enjoy it vicariously through the photos later because in the moment it is mayhem!

Here are a few highlights…

The cousins holding hands

Audrey thinking about enjoying her horse (Isaac looked about as thrilled in his pic!)

Between Caleb ‘injuring’ his knee every ten minutes and Kyler crying, we tried to snap a photo

Pretty sure Auntie Stephie enjoyed this year more than anyone else ~wink~

One tradition that deserves keeping is certainly Nana and the Nutcracker for the girls (Audrey stood in the driveway and cried for 10 minutes when they left, she is all set to go next year!)  Rylee was totally enraptured with the whole thing, even asked to sign up for ballet after she got home!

Another keeper so far, is the gingerbread making night.  Though it’s tough not to eat the candy, this year we learned if we bought gross candy, everyone would be less interested in eating it.  Having observed several big sugar highs and lows in our kids already this season, we were anxious to avoid another!  Black licorice, spicy gum drops, cinnamon drops and the like all made great decor and didn’t taste very good.

This house was almost as sweet as this little girl…almost

No candy for this cutie till next year!

Hands in the dark

“I’m wet.”  He whispers to his daddy in the wee hours of the morning.

I fall back asleep for the 3rd time in the same night.  Next thing I know he’s snuggled up in between us, dry with fresh PJ’s on.  I move pillows around to make room for him, a husband and my ever growing belly.

An hour later I think I’m dreaming and I hear the quietest voice ever…”Mama?”  Eyes peek open to find a little 2 year old body standing waiting for someone to make room for her as she does when she wakes up cold or upset or lonely in her big girl bed.  I scoot over, help her up and she nestles in beside me.  Soon I hear the soft sucking sound of her finding her precious thumb and she’s back asleep.

I can’t sleep.  Not just because my bed and body feel full.  I lay there in piles of flannel, warm blankets and warm skin and think about life.

I wonder why God would let my dear friend lose her baby two days ago when her heart so longs for one more child.  I wonder how my old client is doing who called this week and her whole life is totally unraveling.  I wonder how much more another precious friend can handle as her life brims with other people’s neediness and nearly no margin.  I wonder how it will feel opening gifts and enjoying great food without Grampy this year.  My heart hurts.

A chubby little boy hand reaches for mine in the dark and I hold it and he pulls it to his perfectly soft little face as he sleeps.  The baby inside must sense I’m not asleep and wakes up for a morning stretch and almost tickles my side as he or she moves around.

I ponder what still another friend spoke of when she called from Costco yesterday.  She’d been at the dentist last week, which she really, really doesn’t like-even more than most people don’t.  She’d discovered the wonder of gas during dental work and it was lovely.  As she drifted off, she thought of me having just read what I’d written about the holidays and hurting.

She wondered…What if part of why God gave us Christmas is to be sort of like gas to our hurting hearts?  That it might dampen the ache for just a time.  What if He knew life would hurt and because nobody is perfect that there would always be the presence of pain?  What if Christmas was meant to give us a chance to celebrate and to love and to delight…even when that seems hard to do?

The little girl voice next to my head cries out “Dadda, Dadda?” in distress.  I turn to her and she is still again and I realize she’s not even awake.  A big hand reaches across my belly and weaves his fingers into mine.  How he’s managed not to fall out of bed I don’t know.  But he’s there.  He silences the alarm that beckons him to the gym and opts for the full, warm bed.  Who could resist?

My hearts feels like Audrey’s sleepy voice, “Abba, Father…where are you?”  Why do all these things happen that are hard for so many people?  There is so much I don’t understand.

If nothing were ever hard and no one ever hurt, would I ever turn to God and seek to know Him in the ways I am coming to know Him?  Probably not.   Would we need this burst of joy in December as the year comes to an end to propel us forward into still another year?  Unlikely.  Would we even have needed Him to come?  Not really.

But we do.  And He did.

Emmanuel.  My all time favorite name of God.

God with us.  God with me and you and every other broken heart.  God with the sleepy babes in my bed and with the ones across the world who have no one to wake up to in the night.

The words “I love you” and a kiss land on my head.  He whispers to me as he leaves for work…”We need a bigger bed.”

And I love him more than yesterday.

#323 – choosing to see beauty through the tears

#324 – a husband with a beautiful heart

#325 – that Jesus came to us…and in the way He did

Tree hunting

I was going to say tree ‘shopping’ but given how we’re just sort of meandering our way through the holiday season this year with no particular plan, it was really more like a hunt.  We’d been to church and had little time before naps but 3 weeks before Christmas and still had no tree.  So we just drove from church out towards the hills and stopped at a random tree farm, chopped down one of the first we saw and went home for naps.

Life lesson from little boys

Lesson #432:  A pee-saturated-pull-up from several days ago found whilst cleaning one’s bedroom for mama does not in fact make a worthy weapon to whack your brother with.

In fact it will, upon impact, detonate and spray urine-soaked-diaper-polymer all over the room.  It will stick to your mother’s clothing as she tries to clean it.  It will grind into the carpet as you try to pick it up with paper towels.  It smells really, really bad.  Your pregnant mother might gag and she probably won’t enjoy trying to pick each strange looking chunk off the carpet.

Using an old fashioned light saber would work much better.  Next time.

Lesson learned.

A sweet treat that is good for you!

After eating too many treats in Hawaii then coming home and starting holiday baking…the sugar intake was higher than normal around here for sure.  I didn’t have the energy to put any thought into cooking or anything, just been trying to make it through each day.  But we’ve been sans sugar since Sunday, in great need of a detox, and I found a fun looking recipe to try for a treat.  It turned out better than expected and will help us all not feel deprived!

Rich Carob Balls (from Stephanie at Keeper of the Home)

3/4 cup peanut butter (organic, unsweetened)
3/4 cup carob powder (you could substitute cocoa powder-that’s what I did)
1 Tbsp. raw honey (I ended up using closer to 2)
1/2 cup raisins (or some dates, or dried apricots, although raisins worked really nicely)
1/2 cup favorite chopped nuts and seeds (I used 1/2 almonds, 1/4 pumpkin seeds, 1/4 walnuts)

Process nuts and seeds and raisins in food processor till fairly small.  Add rest of ingredients till a big chocolate ball forms.   Roll into little balls.  Roll some into raw flaked coconut if you like!  Store in fridge or freezer.  The boys loved making these and loved eating them even more it took about 10 minutes start to finish (since both boys are crazy about ball-rolling!).  And I feel happy that we have something healthy and special to snack on this weekend before Christmas.  Its a win-win 🙂

OCC party – 4th year?

Just trying to put one foot in front of the other here…realize I’m way behind on blog pictures.   One thing I love about homeschool is that we can do stuff like this during the week, weekends tend to fill fast and get crazy and it’s nice to be able to move school work around to have a house full of people over for something special.   Back in November we did our annual Operation Christmas Child party and filled shoeboxes with friends, it was a wonderful time:

When the holidays hurt

We’re just a few days back from a blissful Thanksgiving vacation in warm sunshine to freezing cold and rain and…CHRISTMAS?!?!?

I’m not sure why I didn’t think much about it before we left, but I am glad I didn’t.  Not thinking about it meant enjoying every minute of our family time which we’d anticipated so intensely for so long.

But now here I am, feeling sort of like I’m on a ride that’s going too fast and I can’t get off.  Feeling like maybe if I blink long enough, it will be January and I can breathe again.  Sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store yesterday waiting to go in until I could stop crying.  Knowing that no amount of my organizing or planning will make the next three weeks go the way I want, and that is okay.  Realizing that there are people that feel this way every single year and who walk through it alone.  More tears.  And still more gratitude for the family and friends who live life beside us.

I’ve always had empathy in my heart for people who struggled through the holiday season for one reason or another.  But nothing, even the year I was really battling post-partum depression, has ever stood in my way of relishing Christmastime.  The last few years have just gotten better and better as we’ve grown into some of our own traditions and our kids are getting old enough to understand and delight in the meaning of the season.

Last Christmas was organized, well planned and full of fun around every corner.  We were home for one thing, at in-laws for another then at the other in-laws for still another gathering.  And nothing in the world could have prepared us for what would happen just a few weeks after Christmas.  I simply expected that the next Christmas would be the same or better and looked forward to it as soon as the month ended.

That ‘next’ Christmas is here.  And it’s so not the same.  Someone who should be here isn’t here to celebrate with us.  Someone who would always top off my sparkling cider till I would nearly burst with the bubbly drink.  Someone who would always make sure the heat was on high and we were warm.  Someone who would perfectly cut the turkey and who loved to eat my artichoke dip.  Someone who was the perfectly handsome, older-looking version of the husband I love with all my heart.

We have, by no choice of our own, learned one most powerful lesson.

We are not entitled to tomorrow.  We don’t live with some ‘guarantee’ that things will stay as they are.  It might feel like such a thing exists…but it simply does not.  We just have today.  We have the moment we’re in to live or to choose not to.   This perspective has radically, deeply changed our life.

Somehow we will walk out the next few weeks and we will make a choice to celebrate that God is with us.  We will relish that He came and in the most beautiful, amazing way.   He will be with us in a special way, a different way.  One that, despite more tears and aching hearts, will be full of the graces we need to make it to the New Year.

Hawaii 2010

Our very last day we were delighted to see a huge pod of dolphins in the bay off the marina in Kona

Not sure why we even packed clothes…they wore these every single day!

Rylee and Nana stenciled their very own Hawaii aprons to bring home

Little buddy cousins Isaac and Audrey enjoyed countless hours of digging and grabbed snacks in between

Audrey fell head over heels in love with her Daddy these past two weeks

My dad trying to keep up with his son-in-law on the boogie boards

Kyler with his lei at the hula

Pretty sure the main reason my dad sprung for this convertible mustang was these two little boys (they dubbed it the “Supercar”)

We got a personal coffee tour from this darling man who planted 40,000 coffee plants in 1984 with his wife and now runs Bayview Coffee farm – incredible, pure Kona coffee

They let us try our hand at cracking mac nuts at the coffee farm…

And they handed us a bag and told us to pick as many oranges as we could eat!

Audrey giving Nana some love

Our last beach day, we hiked into Honomalino Bay, a  black sand beach nestled in a grove of coconut trees…..really no words for how lovely it was

Caleb loved piling coconut shells and palm fronds into forts!

For my parents/sister’s families last night there, we went out to the Kona Brewery for a tremendously fun dinner, Ruby got decked out in her baby bling, bracelet and all, for the occasion!

It was probably the most fun dining out experience we have ever had, honest, we hardly wanted to leave.

Our table was tucked in the back and we had room for a dance party!

Our fam on some lava where the Kona airport used to be….before it was bowled over by hot lava

Rylee and Auntie Stephie getting peeked at by a sea turtle at our favorite beach, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, Rylee did not share in her mother’s snorkeling fear and would watch fish and turtles swim with me until she was plum tuckered out…I was totally amazed at her little 7 year old self.

My dad did an incredible job facilitating the “Gospel in the sand”…every day the kids learned a piece of God’s story experientially through sand stories, it was awesome.

The two most amazing parents anyone could have.  Their love for Jesus and for family inspire and bless our socks off.  Their willingness to share their timeshare with their kids and 6 grand kids ages 7 and under was beyond generous.  This was the trip of a lifetime for us.  Though a ton of work traveling with so many little ones, we cherished the absolute gift it was to all be together and share in such beauty.

Best part of vacation?

You might think it was this…







or this…







or this…







but it was unanimously this:








After almost two years at his ‘new’ job, we were all lucky enough to have 11 whole days with daddy in one of the most beautiful places ever.  Priceless.  More to come.  Just wanted to say “we’re home”.  And that it was an epic adventure for our growing family.