Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Season Memories (so far)

Some friends at church were discussing (on Facebook) how the best part(s) of Christmas is the anticipation, more than the actual day. All the fun, wonderful things we do...and the anticipation of Jesus. And then I read this article all about how not to spoil your child at Christmas, and it mentioned a lot of tradition/memory making things you can do. I know I found some things I'd like to add to our Christmas experience.

But it also got my thinking about what a wonderful Christmas season this has been so far. I know this will be part one of at least two parts, because the fun keeps coming. But here's a list of my best Christmas moments so far:

1. Evan telling me he wanted to give Jesus a Christmas card, and that he didn't want Santa to come, just Jesus...and then asking me what we should get Jesus for Christmas.

2. Making ever-so-imperfect Christmas decorations, and then watching the kids admire them with joy and pride, every day since. Our favorite is our prayer chain, which bares the names of lots of the people we love. Most in fact. ;-)

3. picking out a wreath for our door together. Amelie found a little sprig of leaves, pink little balls, and a pink present and exclaimed, "Pink! My favorite color!" That just had to go on the wreath.

4. my children "laying a path for Jesus" each week in church

5. making my Christmas card...I like it so much better than last year's. ;-)

6. the first eggnog, at back in November! LOL.

7. Exchanging fair-trade gifts with a dear family friend (whose commitment to and work for social justice just inspires me to no end), ours wrapped w/ construction paper decorated by Evan and hers in newspaper - and both of us just loving our gifts' wrapping, and knowing the other would too! And the smile on Evan's face as his dad told me, "Evan wants to give her the present".

8. Listening to Evan and Amelie's "Ooh"s and "Ahh"s as we watched all the lights on peoples' lawns while driving places.

9. Finding a Christmas ornament I think my hubby will really love...some years I just didn't find anything that inspired me.

10. Telling Kevin about hearing the first Bob Dylan Christmas song I ever had. And then ordering his Christmas album and thinking about whether we'll love it or just laugh at it once we listen. (Kevin never reads this blog, so if you see him - mums the word!)

11. Creating some custom-made, personalized gifts for the favorite people in my family.

12. My feeling of utter gratitude (and an itsy bit of pride, thanks to Reverend Wendy), that even though I grew up not going to church or learning much about Jesus, and even though I don't think I've quite figured out all that I do and don't kids (esp. Evan) are really into Jesus's birthday this year, and I think they kind of understand what was/is so special about Him.

13. Spending this Christmas thinking more about God and my blessings, enjoying all the moments of this season, and worried and fretting less about what has to get done....than I ever have in my life. And realizing how much Kevin and my children have had to do with making this happen.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas is Coming & For Heaven's Sake (Part 2)

Recently I blogged about how pleased I am that we are bringing up our children up with as strong a faith foundation as we can, with the help of a wonderful faith community. And about our efforts to make Christmas about Jesus at least as much as it is about presents and all the wonderfully fun stuff that well, isn't.

And I am just thrilled with how it is going. Their aunt gave me a link to a website with wonderful crafts...both secular and Jesus oriented. I think these have been a big part of their growing excitement. THey love the crafts, the act of making things...and they are tied to Christmas and so I think the excitement transfers to Christmas.

But they are also excited at the Advent time about JESUS. Evan keeps talking about Jesus "coming". I hope he isn't expecting him to walk through the door Christmas morning. ;-) But I love that he is excited about celebrating Jesus's birthday at this period of time. As I mentioned in Christmas is Coming, I grew up not even really knowing what Advent was.

We made some cards with candles cut out of pieces of construction paper..this actually came from a book published by the Le Leche League that their Godmother Jane sent me. Evan doesn't want to send it as a Xmas card, he wants to send it as a birthday card to Jesus. We've made Christmas trees out of green paper and glued ornaments on. Amelie insisted on gluing the ornaments on herself. This just pleases me to no end. She is so sure of herself. I hope she never loses that. I hope I only enhance the feeling and never do anything to undermine it. After putting them on the refrigerator, she pointed to it every day. We made snowman puppets. I had to cut out the shapes...and these snowmen looked pretty sad. They ADORED them.

Hope Church is celebrating Advent in part by starting worship with the children laying a path to Christmas and lighting an Advent candle. As Pastor Wendy noted, they approached this activity with such Awe and Wonder. (Capitals, yeah!). The first week they laid down paper "leaves" to lay a paht for Jesus. The second week they laid a path of "water" for Him. They both came back to our pew smiling ear to ear. And they are also attending the Sunday School each Sunday now...for the whole time before they come back for Communion! (I just love that children are part of communion).

And their godmother Jane sent us two lovely Christmas books,The Christmas Baby by Sally An Wright, and The Moon Shines Down by Margaret Wise Brown. Evan just adores the pop up manger scene in THe Christmas Baby. He keeps asking why it folds up in the book. ;-) After I read it each night, he wants to hold it and look at it, and has fallen asleep with it in his arm. And he asks so many *questions* about the places talked about in The Moon Shines Down. We all love the artwork, and MWB's language is as beautiful as it is in Big Red Barn. It only mentions Christmas at the end...but it is after showing the experiences of young people all over the world...and so the child knows a little about each of those places before being told (or reminded) that Christmas is celebrated in lots of places.

I'm especially thrilled to have these because we only had A House Mouse Christmas. It is a lovely sweet book with beautiful illustrations (I really love House Mouse designs), but it has nothing to do with Jesus. We'll also be getting Bear Stays Up for Christmas (by the author of Bear Snores On...a Kelly Household favorite) from Nana. But we're looking right now for more childrens' books about Christmas, both secular but also especially ones about Jesus. I am eager to have a bigger collection next year.

And Evan told me tonight, "I don't want Santa to come, just Jesus". My eyes really started to tear up. It was the sweetness of what he said, but it was more just incredible gratitude that for all my poking around in the dark about what and how to teach my babies about Christmas, and not a lot of teaching on my son is really into Jesus and his birthday!We will be doing Santa, on the modest side. But I'm thrilled my kids knew much more about Jesus before ever even HEARING the name Santa. I think they will get a big kick out of Santa...and I am really excited to leave out cookies with them (and carrots for the Reindeer). And the giggling and not wanting to go to sleep, but wanting Christmas morning to come. THe plan right now is to not be home on Christmas morning this year or next, but I'm already looking forward to Christmas morning 2011

So the Kelly home doesn't have its Christmas tree yet, and the only decorations we have up are the ones the children have made. But it sooo doesn't matter to the kids. They are already beginning to understand what Christmas is really about...and they're plenty excited about that.

The Little Things...

There are so many "big" things I love about Evan and Amelie. How loving they are, how thoughtful and sweet they can be, their incredible appreciation for anything and everything, even the smallest little thing you do for them. They are so friendly to everyone. And I am so happy for the way Evan is really appreciating the *true* meaning of Christmas.

But there are so many little things too, that bring me such joy and so many smiles throughout our crazy days.

1. The way Amelie gets up and does her best impersonation of Dora when they sing "We did it!" at the end...twisting her little self and moving her arms back and forth in a twisty motion.

2. The way Evan remembers the littlest of details about places and events we were at months ago!

3. Evan loves to hear stories about when he was little. He got a kick out of my telling him that when he was less than a year old, he loved any book with pictures of the moon...and at bedtime when we would read them, he would go to the window (or just look out if we were on the bed by the window) and point and say, "Moon!".

4. The way Amelie thinks about people and what they need just about *all* the time. I can be having a conversation with Kevin (Daddy if you're reading this someday kids ;-) and mention I have to go get something or I need something and she runs and gets it before I even get up!

5. One of their favorite shows right now is Wubzy (esp. Amelie). There is one character who puts up his hands and wiggles his fingers and says, "That's Kooky" to things he finds strange. Both of them, but esp. Amelie, love to put their hands up and do the same motion and say "That's Kooooky!" too! They have big grins on their faces and it is so cute. I'd love to get a picture to go with this, but it happens so fast, I probably won't be able to.

6 The joy they are taking from our CHristmas crafts. They made snowmen out of paper last week, and for *days*, Amelie would point to it on the refrigerator and say, "Mommy help me make that!" And they both just go to town with anything I give them to color. I was so surprised to see Amelie pasting Christmas ornaments on to her paper tree by herself! And neither of them care what they end up looking like...that's my hang up. So I'm trying to ignore that and just reinforce their pride in their creations. I know that is the best thing I can do to help foster their creativity.

More and more to come...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Toys & taking it easy on myself

There was a battle going on at my house a while back. It was me versus all of the toys we have in this house. And I won...and then I lost. Welcome to motherhood. ;-)

We have *never* done a toy donation or give away...we still have every toy the kids have gotten since they were born, basically. That's a big part of the problem. So I finally hit rock bottom one day, as my crutches were landing on every little part of every toy (figure tons of toys x tons of parts to many of them = a sea of tiny parts!)...and Evan would often start just tossing them all around frantically when he would get in "a mood" (born of tiredness, boredom or just being 3...or some combination of the three). There were too many things for him to throw.]

I have unique and odd needs when it comes to organizing toys, because of my disability. I can't lean over and pick up toys after toy to put them away. Down, up, down up, down up is just too tiring for me because I have a weak back. And lots of tiny parts on the floor are just a minefield for crutches. So after getting some much needed help from folks, I came up with a plan.

So my family and friends came to my rescue at various points over the next couple of days. And then I got smart. All of the toys with lots of pieces went downstairs to our family room with a RUG. And ones with little pieces that would get lost under the couches down there went to their room (rug again). So I wouldn't slip on the little buggers. And I put a rule in place: the toys stay in their respective rooms as much as possible, but if you bring one to another room, you put it back when you're done. We moved their toy shelf with bucket (w/ LOTS of piece) into our room, so Evan would stop toppling the whole thing over, buckets and their contents and all. THe rule for that was you take one bucket and a time, and only can take another bucket after you put the first one back.

I felt really brilliant. And now I feel SO freakin' naive and stupid. Of course neither of us keep on them all the time to keep things where they go. And so now my house is a not-so-Holy mess AGAIN. And the fact that they have a bizillion toys, books, etc. makes piles and mountains of things to wade through when they all get tossed about.

THis is one of very few "negative" posts, because I try to keep to recording the lovely memories...but I know some other moms read this...and I gotta be real. Sometimes I feel like the most unorganized mom (and wife - homemaker I guess is the word ;-), horrible disciplinarian, and just overall incompetent mother/wife. And since that's 99.9% of my identity these means I'm an unorganized, incompetent PERSON.

My niece Shelley Abreu just blogged about these feelings, and I think she is the most creative, thoughtful on-top-of-everything person. And I hear other moms (mostly on Facebook)voice the same feelings. Shelley questioned why all these great moms all seem to have these same insecurities. And if you're in this boat, you should hop on over and read it. It made me feel so much better...just like talking to my other mom friends always does.

This was just going to be a rant on how toys are running my life. But it would be such an incomplete picture. Because I am saved by the support of these other moms on a daily basis. And I think that is a much more valuable message.