Thursday, December 31, 2009

Leave Behind in 2009

We sat around the kitchen table with paper and colored markers in hand. Each one of us wrote a list of things we're "Leaving behind in 2009." Tomorrow we will write a second list - a year long to do list of positive goals and aspirations.

But tonight it was about shedding ourselves of the undesireable.

My list was short, but the brevity of the list doesn't necessarily mean it will be easily accomplished.

I will leave behind in 2009:
1. Procrastination (mainly in regards to writing, scripture study, and housework)
2. Meanness (my mean streak has reared its ugly head much too often this year)
3. Debt
4. Allowing myself to be distracted from the important things in life by the unimportant

We stood with papers in hand, hovering near the fireplace, (Tman, with great excitement) and took turns reading our lists aloud. Some of my favorites included "Kicking my sisters," "Whining," "Complaining about my dish job," and "Having to be asked to make my bed." Then we struck a match and touched the yellow flame to each paper. We held the burning list for just a moment watching the paper shrink and curl, then tossed the lists into the fireplace where we witnessed their disappearance into smoke and ash.

With only one almost-burned thumb (Meya's) and no cinged eyebrows, the activity was a success.

While there was so much about 2009 that was good, I feel a renewed desire to leave behind the mistakes and shortcomings I have made over the last year, and create an even better 2010 for myself and my family.

And tonight, I am thankful for the passage of time, for the lessons learned, and for the chance to start anew.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Storm

When the children woke up Saturday morning they ran downstairs to the sliding glass door. They sat together oohing and ahhing, their noses pressed against the cold glass, their warm breath fogging in circles. And for a few moments, they were silent, sitting back, captivated by what they saw unfolding outside. To me, this picture of them together represents everything good about a storm: togetherness and awe. I love how Baby C is in the middle, snuggled between her big sisters as they introduce her to the snow storm.

There is something about a storm that I just love. Being the daugther of a former Coast Guard Helicopter pilot, I've been programmed to relish and reverence a good storm. I love how a storm brings us closer together. Sure, we're logistically sequestered by Mother Nature, but there's also the voluntary desire to nestle, cuddle, linger in pajamas, and wrap up together in blankets. I also love the sheer power of a awe-inspiring, to watch the swirling flakes, so tiny in the air, build layer upon layer until the yard is swallowed in white and only the tips of our garden fence poke through.

And of course, the other great thing about a storm--being out in it! We have taken some walks, built a snow fort, encouraged snowball fights, and sledded for hours. Again, togetherness.
In a couple days, I'll be opening presents with my family. But perhaps, the best present of this Christmas season was our perfect storm.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Car Trouble

I'm going on three days without a working car. I picked up the car from the mechanics on Wednesday, only semi-grudgingly wrote the check, and cheerfully loaded the kids in the car to complete some much-needed errands. After only five minutes on the road, with Christmas carols blaring on the radio, my car died. Completely. No sign of life, except for some erratic fluttering on all the dials before blackness.

I struggled to turn the steering wheel which had lost power steering and told the kids to start praying. Miraculously, the car re-started, and we coasted back into the mechanic's parking lot. I unloaded the kids into the cold afternoon air, turned over my keys to the apologetic mechanic, and walked back home...not so cheerfully.

Yesterday, I arrived at the mechanics very hopeful. I wrote the second check with a lump in my throat, and loaded up the kids again.

When the car stopped in the middle of busy Route 7 - fifteen miles from home- I lost it. Actually, I kept it together - but only because my friend, Karen, was there to help keep me in-check. But I sure felt like losing it. I wanted to scream, fling myself on the road, and pound my fists against the asphalt.

Today will be my third day without a car. Here's what I know about myself: I like having a car. I like having at least one outing per day (or at least the option/freedom of an outing). I get a bit stir-crazy when I'm stuck in my house all day long.

But here's what I choose to do today: I will stay positive. I will do laundry (I might as well, as long as I'm house-bound). I will make cookies. I will try to salvage some of my Christmas plans this week. I will try to see these turn-of-events as an opportunity to simplify and count my blessings.

At least, I will try.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

3 Trees

We have three trees this year (four if you count the miniature one in my front room). How did this happen?

When I was young my family traditionally had two trees each year. We always had one "fancy" Christmas tree in the living room which was decorated in red and white. Beads were hung with precision and glittering balls were placed with a patterned order. We made homemade gingerbread men which we strung with red yarn. The room smelled so good - a mix of spices and pine. Throughout the Christmas season we would inevitably hear thumps as the gingerbread men pulled free from the yarn and fell onto the train tracks of the electric Christmas train.

Our second tree was quite different. It was always in the family room. This one had multi-colored lights, our homemade ornaments, and all the ornaments we'd collected on vacations. It was an eclectic tree, at best. A tree of memories with no color scheme or aesthetic beauty. But it was my favorite. I used to sneak downstairs in my pajamas in the middle of the night. I'd keep all the other lights off and lay down near the tree to watch the colored patterns swirl on the walls and ceiling.

Since being married, we have only had one tree each Christmas. And it has always been a "fancy" tree, perfectly color-coordinated, and painstakingly decorated. This year, however, Madi insisted that we get a tree "just for the kids." We found a great artificial tree on sale at Target and a couple boxes of the new led multi-colored lights. That night I let the kids decorate the tree, with no direction or rules from me. They hung all their homemade ornaments and divided the extra ornaments equally between themselves. They laughed. They cooperated. They delighted. When it was finished they couldn't bring themselves to go to bed. So they gathered their pillows and blankets and camped out under the tree.

I sat next to them on the floor and let my own childhood memories flood back.

I have two beautiful trees this year - one all in red and gold in my front room, and one all in white in my family room. But the "kid's tree," tucked snuggly in the book nook between the kids' rooms is, by far, my favorite.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Other List

I handed out pencils and blank white paper to the kids as they eagerly sat at the kitchen table, with their hands out-stretched. "Time to write our Christmas lists!" I announced. This was only the second time I've had the kids write official "Christmas Lists." I found the lists particularly helpful last year, a pseudo-contract, a concrete wish list to counter the wobbling interests and wants of my children. Without further instruction I let them get to it. And I monitored from a distance, in the kitchen, as I prepared dinner.

I paid only half-attention as I stirred the bubbling spaghetti sauce. It wasn't until I heard something strange, that I really perked up and listened. "How do you spell caroling?" Meya asked Madi. Caroling? I thought. Now what new toy has to do with caroling? Then T-man asked, "How do you spell gingerbread?" I put my spoon down and walked over to the table.

There on the white paper were indeed lists. But they were not the lists I had expected. Instead of toys, books, and games listed - a present wish list - my children had created a doing wish list. At the top of Madi's list was "decorate Christmas tree and sing carols." Leasie wrote "take cookies to neighbors" and "act out the nativity." Other items on their lists included drink hot chocolate, have a fire in the fireplace, go sledding, go see the lights at the temple, build a gingerbread house, and do secret service for a needy family.

I was shocked...and moved. I let dinner simmer unattended while I sat down to help them finish their lists and then read them outloud. Then I got a piece of paper and wrote my own list.

The kids have since written their "Santa Letters" (their gift wish lists) which we promptly stuffed in envelopes and mailed. But their true Christmas wish lists are tucked safely in my journal as an important lesson to me, taught to me by my children, about the most important part of the Christmas season. Family. Traditions. Christ. Togetherness. Love. Service. Doing.