Monday, December 31, 2007

Blog Roll

If you read here regularly you might have noticed that I updated my blog roll. My blog roll is a funny thing, very diverse. Just because someone is on my blog roll isn't necessarily and endorsement. The blogs on my roll are there because I enjoy them. Hope you find some blogs there to enjoy as well!

A Christmas Trend

I've noticed a relatively new trend, especially among young families, that seems to have picked up steam this year. I've talked to many moms, especially those with young children, who opted for a very simple, low-key Christmas celebration that gave them time to enjoy their families and spend time on what's truly important.

I know many people who have come to dread the holidays because of all the chaos, spending, busy-ness, and stress it brings. I've heard some of them say, "I just can't wait for Christmas to be over." This relaxed approach seems to be an answer to that kind of Christmas pressure...The pendulum seems to be swinging the other way. I love Christmas as much as anyone, but it seems the younger generation is seeing that when expectations and traditions stop being fun and become burdensome, it's time to try something new.

What about you? Have you noticed this trend?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Celebration

Growing up, Christmas was a huge deal at our house. We started celebrating at Thanksgiving and didn’t stop till after the New Year.

But when I say Christmas was a huge deal, I’m not talking about gifts. My parents handled gift-giving so wisely, no matter how much or how little we had on any given year. They got us each just three gifts, both on years when my dad was in corporate upper management, and years when we could barely make ends meet. (Grandparents usually gave us one gift each.) One of those gifts was always a book. We were never encouraged to ask for what we wanted, but rather to be happy with whatever we got, knowing it was chosen with a great deal of thoughtfulness and love.

Christmas remembrances are among my sweetest. My parents taught me that Christmas is about more than how much there is under the tree. We focused on the birth of Christ, of course. And we just made memories.

This week I told my kids a story about one Christmas that could have been less joyful than others. I was a teenager. We had just come through a very devastating situation, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and we had a lot of healing to do. My parents bought a small farm in East Texas, with a tiny old house that needed extensive renovation. We had money set aside to fix our new place, but my dad was unable to find work. So in the meantime, we put most of our belongings in storage and rented another tiny old house two miles up the road.

It was a little yellow place, pier and beam. We could see daylight between the floorboards and dirt sifted up through the cracks. The tiny living room had a crooked wallpaper border, and the dining room was covered in a jarring coca-cola pattern, red, black, and white. The boys had to pass through the girls’ room to get to theirs, which was essentially a big closet. That was an exceptionally cold winter, and the house had no insulation. There were a couple of broken windows. We woke up many mornings to icicles hanging on the inside of the window sills. The only heat was provided by a couple of antique porcelain space heaters that would burn you or melt your clothes if you stood too close. The septic system was a mess, and we had to take drastic measures not to overload it. Among other precautions, several of us usually had to share bath water (there was no shower in the only bathroom) to keep the whole thing from backing up into the house.

We thought for sure we’d be out by Christmas and things would be better, but December rolled around and Daddy still hadn’t been able to find work, in spite of his best efforts. (On one hand, he was free to work on the new house when he wasn’t job hunting, but on the other I know this was a really difficult time for him because he has always been such a conscientious, hard-working provider.) The remodel was taking longer than anticipated, as so often happens. We realized that we’d still be in the little yellow house for the holiday.

Looking back, our spirits should have been dampened, but they weren’t. I have to applaud my parents for never allowing self-pity or discouragement to take over and ruin that time. (This applied to other times as well, probably why I have no patience with negativity and complaining.) I’m sure they were stressed and worried, but that didn’t affect the atmosphere at home. After all, we had enough to eat and wear and we were together. It wasn’t perfect, but we could make the best of it. We were thankful for what we did have.

Some of my best Christmas memories are of that Christmas…Singing carols with friends in the small, cold living room, making cookies, my sister and dad working puzzles in the coca-cola dining room. I have no idea what I got that year, although I’m sure it was no more than three gifts. Gifts didn’t matter though. Love made it a great Christmas.

Billy and I don’t have a set number of gifts we give our children, although it’s not extravagant. But quite honestly, regardless of what each Christmas is like, my prayer is that we instill in our kids a spirit of thankfulness and contentment that rises above stuff and draws their focus to what’s really important: love, family, and Christ. With a foundation on immaterial things, I know that no matter whether times are lean or plentiful, they’ll be able to have joy in the midst of it. Their hearts will be focused on what truly matters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Paul Potts

“Mama, can we listen to some opera?”

That is the last thing I ever expected to hear from my 6-year-old while she was doing her school work. Of course, the last thing I ever expected my husband to buy was an opera CD, and opera was the last thing I expected to play over and over as I prepared Christmas Eve supper. We are pretty ordinary people, not really opera fans. I mean, my kids will sing the first line of “The Barber of Seville” over and over again till I think I’ll lose my mind, but they learned that from Alfalfa on Little Rascals. I enjoy classical music like Mozart, but I don’t listen with any real understanding, I just try to appreciate the sound. My kids enjoy it too. Billy doesn’t so much. None of us have ever liked opera.

Paul Potts changed that. I might be the only person on the internet who hadn’t heard of this unassuming Welsh cell phone salesman, the latest winner of Britain’s Got Talent. The YouTube clip of his first performance on the show made me cry. I think the reason I’ve never liked opera before is that the few opera singers I’ve heard came off as soulless performers. Paul Potts sings with a childlike wonder that lets you know he is in love with what he’s doing. He’s a common, ordinary guy singing opera, and singing it beautifully. Our opera-free home has now been introduced to these lovely classical pieces, because when Paul Potts sings, the music comes to life.

He’s already sold 2 million copies of his debut album. If you aren’t one of the 2 million who have discovered Paul Potts, I encourage you to get a copy. I bet you’ll enjoy it, even if you think you don’t like opera.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Joy

In spite of a really crazy month, we managed to squeeze in a few fun Christmas activities.

Elizabeth's one request was that we make cut-out cookies.

The kids had such fun icing them. I iced a few myself to make sure we had some that were certified slobber-free. Come on, we are all moms here, you know how it goes!!!

The aftermath!


Did You Have a Merry Christmas?

We did! This is the first year in quite some time that we have not been near enough to spend Christmas with family. While we would have loved to spend Christmas Day with our parents, we made the best of having a "just us" Christmas. Actually, after moving and a week of travel, it was wonderful to just have a quiet day where we didn't have to do anything. The kids were able to take their time opening gifts and then playing with them. I made a couple pies and Billy cooked some really yummy spaghetti and meat balls in lieu of a big, labor intensive feast. Quite honestly, I wouldn't mind if that became a yearly tradition. All I had to do were the dishes! We napped and watched new movies and watched the kids play outside. I did not do a stitch of laundry! It was just the refreshment I needed after a very intense month.

But Christmas is not over, you know. The 12 days of Christmas last until Epiphany, January 6th. So look for more Christmas posts this week! And me tree is staying up until the New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

I'm Back!

Finally got everything up and running last night, so I'll be back to blogging. Yay! I hope all 3 of you faithful readers aren't sick of Christmas, because I've had so many Christmas posts trapped in my head all month that haven't been able to get out! They will last at least a week! :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Still Alive!

Hey everybody, I'm still here. Thanks for all the sweet comments. We're slowly settling in, but I still only have internet access for a short time in the evening when the laptop comes home. Hopefully everything will be in working order sometime after Christmas. Till then, I guess this blog will have to be on hiatus.

Merry Christmas!!!