Monday, December 29, 2008

The longest year-end Meme ever...

Year in Review Meme...

I did this last year and enjoyed going back and reading the answers so much that I decided to do it again.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

My initial reaction to this question was that I hadn't done anything new this year and I may have to rename this meme "End of the year reflections of the worlds most boring mom." But then I hit the blog archives and realized that I did have some firsts, that while not life shattering, were meaningful or memorable in their own way.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I love to make resolutions! However, due to many years of failure in this department, last year I decided to keep it simple. Forgoing my typical "Lose Weight" and "Be more diligent with my quiet times" I just vowed to be a little more presentable when I left the house. Wear makeup. Try to put myself together a bit. And overall I would say I was successful, with the exception of carpool which I still pretty much do in my pajama pants and slippers. And there was that one incident a couple weeks ago where I actually wore my PJs into Walgreens, but hey, I was sick.

This year, I am going for more simple New Years Resolutions.
  • Blog more.
  • Facebook/Twitter less. (Maybe not at all, not sure)
  • Keep my entryway/living room a little more picked up.
  • Remove the awful wallpaper that has been on my kitchen walls since we moved in 5 years ago.
  • Better follow through on praying for friends.
  • Be at least one size smaller by this time next year. Just one size. Surely, I can do that.
  • Master this darn laptop mouse.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Several people I know at church, and acquaintances but no close friends or family members.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

The Man's grandmother, Hazel, left us this year. It was hard to say goodbye but she was ready to be with her heavenly Father. We rejoice that she is finally now free of pain.

We also lost our old cat, Tigger, after losing his brother the year before.

5. Where did you travel?

We don't travel much and this year was no exception. The furthest we made it from home was our anniversary weekend in Asheville. In fact, other than that the only time we left the state was this week when we rang in the new year with my brother and his family in Greenville, SC.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

A clean house. Not sure I actually managed to have the entire thing clean one time in 2008.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

It's hard to know which memories will last. So much doesn't that you think will.

This week I walked into my sister-in-law's house and was met by my 2-year-old nephew. He looked me in the face and said "Hi!" It s the first time he's ever spoken to me. He and his twin brother are autistic and we have been praying like crazy for them to speak for well over a year. They still have a long way to go but their progress this year has been amazing. I don't think I will ever forget that moment. It felt kind of like I met him for the first time.

Putting Tigger to sleep. He was part of my family before even my husband or children.

We also got a new cat, Kelso, this year which we will no doubt remember, as he will be annoying us for many years to come.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I took over the director position of my 3-year-old choir. I do not have a leader personality and it was extremely nerve wracking for the first couple weeks to be in charge, but now I absolutely love it. Also, in the last couple years I have worked very hard at becoming a better cook.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Honestly, not getting control over my eating/weight.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

Well, right now I am tempted to say this laptop.

11. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Probably this one, because Allie was obsessed with it, which means we heard it 679 times this year.

12. What do you wish you’d done more of?

More playing with my kids/taking them to do things. More exercising. More cleaning and therefor more entertaining. More praying.

13. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Facebooking. Chauffeuring. Eating. Yelling.

14. What was your favorite TV program?

Most of my series disappointed me this year so Probably, So You Think You Can Dance. I also really loved watching previous seasons of 30 Rock and Battlestar Galactica on DVD. And Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog online.

15. What was your favorite movie?

Ummm, can I use Dr Horrible for this category too? No? OK, probably Juno.

16. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of mediocre books this year and very few memorable ones. I would say my favorites were probably The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I also really enjoyed The Host by Stephanie Meyer for a light and fluffy diversion. Although I may be the only person who preferred this book to her crazy popular Twilight series.

17. What one thing would have made your year measurably more satisfying?

A maid.

A maid, especially a live-in one, would have made my year measurably more satisfying.

18. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Personal Fashion Concept? Bwahahaha I guess it would be "I wonder if I can still fit into this?"

19. What kept you sane?

Prayer. Coffee. Friday nights with my girlfriends. Coffee. My husband. Wednesday morning Bible Study. And Coffee.

20. Who did you miss?

My brother and his family moved to Greenville and while we still see them fairly often, I really miss having regular playdates with my nieces.

21. Who was the best new person you met?

When I started teaching choir I was assigned several helpers who are all wonderful. But I have been particularly blessed by the friendship that formed with one of them. Each week I feel like she encourages and blesses me and it has been an honor to get to know her.

22. Tell us a valuable lesson you learned in 2007

I am incredibly blessed. This is something I have given lip service to for years. I have a great marriage and four healthy kids. I live in the United States, for goodness sakes; of course I am blessed. But over the course of this year I made a conscious decision to try to grumble less and notice the beauty in my life more. I'd be lying if I said I was overwhelmingly successful. I still grumble a good bit. But I can honestly say that more than ever before I stop and notice the beauty contained in everyday moments. And I must say blogging has helped this more than any other tool.

23. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense

Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
~Casting Crowns

And that concludes the worlds longest meme. God Bless you if you made it to the end. It took me nearly all day to complete so I won't tag anyone but if you are one of the three people left in the blogosphere that hasn't done a 2008 Reflections post feel free to tag yourself for all or part of it. I'd love to read it and I think next year, you will be glad you did.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The most wonderful time of the year...

Relatively speaking, four children is not a lot. It is however, just enough past the status quo to make revealing our family size feel a bit like a badge of honor. It is typically met with some type of exclamation and a look that runs the gamut between admiring and incredulous. It's the same look I give people when they tell me they are training for a marathon. Two parts awe, one part "Are you insane?"

Having four children was a calculated decision. Well the second two were calculated, the first two came before we calculated anything. But at some point we did decide that four was the right number of children for our family. We realized with just the older two we would be empty nesters at forty and we like even numbers. Six people at the kitchen table. Busy schedules. Loud family outings and game nights. And eventually, we hoped, a slew of grandchildren. But, as is usually the case, the idea was much easier than the reality.

Four children is hard. It has not come easily for me. I have a friend who does it with ease and grace, who gives real meaning to the phrase "joy in chaos" but the reality in our house is that I am more often short tempered and overwhelmed than joyful. Which is not to say that I am not madly in love with all of my children. Individually they each own a piece of my heart that seems far bigger than the whole. But the collective responsibilities of giving them the time and structure they need pretty much kicks my butt.

And Christmas? Preparations for Christmas for a family of six definitely falls in the kick my butt category. Times ten. And a part of me believes that we have taken something beautiful and life changing and perverted it into a season of stress and excess in our need to create some kind of magic in our lives. We do our best to share with our children the miracle of the first Christmas. Of Christ incarnate in a tiny child. Of the first step in a plan that gave us direct access to the King of Kings.

But, if I am being honest, another part of me has bought wholeheartedly into the dream of modern Christmastime magic. Like everyone I know, I love Christmas morning. I purchase too much despite resolutions to keep it simple, and sleep fitfully the night before. Because, oh, if it isn't a heckuvalot of fun to have four kids on Christmas morning. Suddenly, for a little while, the dream I had for a large *happy* chaotic family is a reality. The laughter, the mess, the noise is all multiplied and our home becomes a three-ring-circus defying my ability to take it all in at once. Picture taking takes a backseat to exclaiming with the older kids and assisting the younger ones. And then, once the opening and celebrating with extended family is over we settle into the week that follows.

The week that I refer to as "the most wonderful time of the year." Schedules are clear and - most importantly, I think - The Man is home. Bickering seems less in the light of new toys to share. And I get to be, temporarily, the mom I thought I would be. Saying yes, more often than no. Staying in PJs til noon or later. Playing with my kids in lui of cleaning house or running errands. Family outings are planned. Boardgames are dusted off. And blogging commences while snuggled on the sofa with my sweetie because of my brand new laptop.

(OK, that's just this year, because did I mention I got a new laptop? I am beside myself with hi-tech glee!)

I know that in a week things will be back to normal. And I pray, as I always pray, that I will find more balance, more patience, more organization. But for now, I am thankful I have this reprieve. This time called Christmas.

And now, I must go. The Man has laid down a game of Blokus and a challenge and I need to go kick some board game butt.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It's 1AM on Christmas morning. We are home from Christmas Eve at my mother's and The Man and I just finished wrapping the last of the presents and putting them under the tree. The stockings are stuffed. The dollhouse is arranged for Clara to discover in the morning. The video camera is charging in the kitchen. My children are all sleeping and dreaming of Santa and reindeer. Or cellphones and ipods.

I am excited, but absolutely exhausted. Whether it should be or not, Christmas is hard work.

But before I go to bed, I wanted to stop best wishes to all of you who come here. To wish you well and let you know you are a blessing to me. Because that,

and this...

really is what it's all about.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dear Santa,

This week's Monday Mission at Maypole's place is to write a post in the form of a letter to Santa. I feel duty bound to participate because it was my suggestion and she obliged me. I had an idea I thought might be cute or clever, or at the very least participatory, but I haven't been up to much in the way of writing this weekend. And I'm definitely not feeling funny or clever.

Because I am still freakin sick. I had one stupid tease of a day on Friday where I thought I was recovering, but now, once again, I resemble the woman in the NyQuil commercial. Except that no amount of green liquid leaves me sleeping peacefully at night. I won't go on about my ailments. Everyone I know is battling illness right now. Mine is nothing remarkable. Not even close. And Clara continues to improve, for which I am very grateful. She was one sick little girl.

But Ben is now coughing and feverish and I am just over all of it. A week of me, and my kids, flat on my back is quite enough, thank you.

(It's true, one lousy week and I am toast - Kyla, honey, I don't know how you do it.)

So with no further ado,

Dear Santa,

When you stop by our house on Christmas Eve you don't have a to leave us a single thing. However if you'd be so kind as to take every bit of sickness out of our home and leave us all bright and bushy tailed for the rest of the Christmas break that would be awesome. That's all I want.

However, if you insist on leaving a gift, I wouldn't mind a personal chef. And maybe peace on earth, while you're handing out miracles.

We left you cookies, but I wouldn't eat them if I were you. Awful lot of coughing and sniffling went on during the baking process. So sorry.

Yours truly ,
Chaotic Joy

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This week in a nutshell...

Yep, Clara's sick. Heartbreakingly so. And I'm not doing so hot in the health department myself. And those six parties? We have already missed three.

But I did get these "I know you're sick and Clara's sick and neither of you have slept and you have a million Christmas obligations and I am working 546 hours this week and can't help you" flowers from The Man.
Ain't guilt pretty?

Honestly though, sometimes it really does make a big difference just to know he gets it. I do love that guy.

And since everyone I know is either sick or has a sick child: I'll toast to a happy cough and sniffle season for my friends. May your soup be chicken, your humidifiers be clean and your antibiotics be cheap.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Status Report - December the desk in our dining room. (This hasn't changed because this is still our only computer...Santa, are you listening?)

Smelling...Not much. I'm pretty stuffy. But if I wasn't I suspect, I'd be smelling the Christmas tree and the cup of coffee, long cold, with lots of Gingerbread creamer, sitting on the desk.

To my three youngest children in my bedroom raiding the craft supply box. Allie is hunting for glitter (this can not end well) and my son is telling her a completely fabricated story about how he saw a knight costume at the store, but it didn't have a helmet so his mom (presumably me?) said she would make him one with lots of glitter. I am enjoying the story so much that I haven't had the heart to go in and call him on the fact that it's all a complete lie. Besides, I am sure Allie knows it's a lie as my name is never mentioned along with the words "Make a costume" or even worse, gasp, "glitter."

Diet coke with ice. No, not the cold coffee, that's pathetically, still sitting here from before church this morning.

Reading...I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. A gorgeously crafted young adult novel about a girl growing up in Nazi Germany. This is, I think, the best book I have read this year. I absolutely loved these characters. It was, however, also heartbreaking and I read the last two chapters through my tears. I am now ready for a lighter diversion for the holidays. Something that will whisk me away but not leave me in tears. I'd LOVE your suggestions.

Also reading...She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I started this today, but I am not feeling it right now. I don't think it's quite the light and fluffy distraction I want. I may put it aside and pick up something else instead. I have no doubt I'll get back to it eventually.

Loving...The "Gift of Hope" thing my church did this year. Everyone was supposed to pick one way to serve others this Christmas. I chose to bring Allie and her friends caroling to the sick and homebound on Friday night. Surprisingly, this was more difficult for me than I thought it would be. Allie had already hosted a caroling party in our neighborhood the last few years so I thought it would be an easy transition to take that on the road. But man, what a blessing I received by stepping out of my comfort zone. But more about that later.

Also Loving...The cold weather and Christmas Lights. Uncharacteristically unScrooge-like of me, but true.

Dreading...Finishing my Christmas shopping and the SIX Christmas parties/programs I have this week. Characteristically Scrooge-like of me.

Eagerly anticipating....December 25th. The week starting with Christmas and ending with New Years Day is the best one of the year for me. The Christmas hustle and bustle is behind me, The Man and kids are home and we get to spend time together as a family. With a new laptop new toys!

Worrying...about my kids. Especially the older two. All the time. Every minute of the day. I'll leave it at that.

Wishing...that this nasty cold descending upon me would move right on along. Too much to do to be sick this week.

Also Wishing...The Man would provide me with some idea of what to get him for Christmas. He says "nothing" but he has worked so hard this year, I would really love to give him something that would blow him away.

Praying...for wisdom and discernment and more wisdom. This parenting gig is hard.

Grateful...That my mediocre Christmas cards are mailed and that most of my Christmas shopping, which is also likely mediocre, is done.

Also Grateful...for Psuedoephedrine. Even if I am forced to feel slightly criminal now each time I purchase it. I mean really my dear power crazed pharmacist, aren't I slightly too um...well fed to be a Meth addict?

Sharing...This video of my baby girl.

Who, incidentally, is still sporting permanent marker spots and now also has runny nose and a rash on her face. She's got quite the orphan-child look going on these days. Poor dear.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My little boy

The Weekids and I were snuggled in the chair-and-a-half for our nightly story time. This ritual is one of the highlights of my day. We were reading a story about bears waiting for Santa and each time Clara pointed to the page and said "Santa Cwas" my heart turned to warm pudding inside my chest. I looked over at Ben, munching away and because suspicious.

"Ben, what are you eating?" I asked casually.

Ben giggled. "What do you think I'm eating?"

"Is it a toy?" I guessed.

He giggled again. "Nah, it's just a booger or somethin."


And now, after that lovely vignette, I will leave you with these two, very brief, videos of Ben's preschool Christmas performance from tonight. Here, he is the blonde boy in the center and as you can see he had two entire lines to sing "all by himself."

Go ahead, play it again, it may take you several tries to appreciate the awesomeness of his 2.5 second performance.

Let's just say he makes up in passion for what he lacks in subtlety. Or pitch. When he finished his song he backed up from the mic and waved his little heart out at his family. The five of us, sitting on the second row, roaring with laughter and waving right back at him.

And lastly, here he is having some kind of spasm vigorously doing the sign language to the end of Silent Night.

He is a boy, through and through. And he makes me laugh every single day.

And, gracious, he has my heart. Tucked right there in his pocket. With goodness knows what else.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Joy in Chaos

Last night my girlfriends moved "Girls Night Out" to my house to come and rescue me from being stuck at home with my children. The children literally ran or drove circles around my home while we ate obscene amounts of carbs and chatted. We even managed the next segment in our Bible Study on finding lasting joy through Christ despite your worldly circumstances, which felt like it was speaking directly to me. And by the end of the night I was renewed and The Man had returned and life felt infinitely better.

As my friends were arriving they found Brandon on his hands and knees scrubbing the hardwoods because he somehow managed to explode a permanent marker all over our kitchen by shaking it at his younger siblings. They were also greeted by this little blonde head.

While I was taking pictures of her, Brandon growled from the floor "You are NOT going to put that on your blog?"

And I responded, "Dude, you turned your sister into a Christmas Dalmatian, it's totally going on the blog."

And I can't bring myself to listen to her scream while I attempt to scrub blobs of permanent ink off her head so, this morning, she is spotted still. And probably will be until it wears off through regular washings.
It's been a tiring couple of days. The Man is out of town and while it is true that I solo parent during the week, I miss his presence. There is a rhythm, an inhale and exhale, to our lives together. An underlying comfort in knowing that I can go downstairs to his office and plop down there to unload. I rarely do, but I can.

And then, at the end of our days we find each other, at 10:00PM when he is finally off work and the kids are in bed (or on their way there). And we have a routine, even if just for an hour. Recorded TV shows. A ratty beige blanket. First sitting side by side and then eventually with my head on a pillow in his lap. Sometimes television will turn to conversation, more often sleep finds me first. My daughter says we are not romantic, but I laugh. "There are better things than romance" I tell her but she doesn't believe me. She can't comprehend the beauty and peace in a collective sharing of our loads, a happiness in being together, in just being. I hope that someday she will.

He is the last one up at night and closes up the house. Locks up the doors. Recovers the sandbox, puts things back in their rightful place. He makes sure the animals are fed and turns on the monitor. Simple things I rarely notice. But today our sandbox filled with water from the rains. And it was good, for I noticed his absence. And it is nice to be missed.

And that absence is even more pronounced tonight because my oldest son, has left me crumpled in a heap of worry and anger. About things I cannot share, but wish I could. He's a ghost on this blog, by his own demands, but never think that his place in my heart is not as substantial and ingrained as all the rest. I often find myself wishing I could share my joys and trials of life with him - the way he makes me pull out my hair and laugh in spite of myself. I see the gaping hole of his absence here, and it bothers me. My story has a character missing. The main character tonight. My smart, funny, boy with the potential he cannot see.