Sunday, December 21, 2014

When the lights go dim

We live in a house that's 101 years old. There's a lot about it that's charming -- the tall windows, the picture rail, the fold-out ironing board in the wall of the nursery, the wraparound porch. And there are some things we just shrug our shoulders and laugh about, such as the fir floors that have been painted an interesting shade of maroon. Or the glass-shaded fixtures in the skylights we have never figured out how to turn on. (For real! There's no switch!) And how you can tell the furnace is about to kick on when the lights suddenly go dim.

It's a big house, and even though there are no vents to the upstairs -- seriously, it gets chilly up there -- when it's time to warm things up a bit, there just isn't enough energy to go around.

So we sit in the dusky room while the air blows and the thermostat rises, and then when the furnace shuts off, the lights pop back to full strength, and things get bright again.

That's what this holiday season has been like for me.

Some time before Thanksgiving I started to get anxious. And weary. It was actually kind of paralyzing. I don't really know why, but it for sure had something to do with Peter's birthday falling between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And maybe the three visitors we were graced with who spoiled me and took over some everyday tasks, especially entertaining the kiddos, while they were here. It's hard to gird the loins and return to the normal routine after a vacation mindset, especially when "normal" means it's time to "do" the holidays.

God made it clear to me pretty quickly that there just wasn't enough energy to go around, when even a glance at my to-do list made something seize up inside and I didn't know where to begin.

(For me, that's not normal.)

And that I didn't want to simply survive through until Christmas, dragging Tim and the kids behind me. Where's the joy in that?

So after a couple of weeks of withering inside, fretting about the turkey and the bathrooms and Peter's gifts and his party and advent and Christmas cards and the whole works -- I took a red pen, mentally as well as literally (well, it may have been a pencil), and just crossed things out. I dug myself out of the hole of holiday expectations (my own most of all) by lowering the bar, clearing the calendar, and resolving to do less, and be happy with it.

Oh, it has been so freeing.

Instead of running around crazy trying to make the house spotless for out of town guests on Thanksgiving, I cleaned the bathroom and tidied the toys. And actually enjoyed the day.

Instead of killing myself knocking the socks off our guests at Peter's birthday party, I focused on the one thing that mattered to my son -- his cake -- and the rest was simple and fun.

Instead of filling our days with must-do's in order to squeeze every last drop of memory-making activity out of this season, I put up a red and green list of can-do's, for whenever we feel like it.

We CAN take fudge to the neighbors, when four out of five people aren't coughing up a lung (as they are right now), but we don't have to.

We CAN decorate our gingerbread cookies with frosting and sprinkles, but you know, they taste pretty good plain.

We CAN make our own garland from the cedar we boughs we cut weeks ago, but it's okay if we end up throwing them back on the brush pile.

We CAN open all the doors in the cool new advent book, but we don't have to do it every morning, or every night. 

We CAN dig through the clothes in the attic to find the baby Christmas jammies, but Susie will look cute no matter what.

We don't have to be slaves to our traditions.

I am so glad God made it clear to me weeks ago that I did not have to accomplish everything on my holiday to-do list. That, in fact, it was better not to. That skipping some opportunities, and even some parties, and not having a litany of Christmas crafts! and holiday cookies! and special outings! we had to abide by, but making room in our days for spontaneity or rest or the sickness that has come for an extended visit, was the way to thankfulness.

I have been so thankful for the small things, for kids being patient on necessary errands, or for a particularly restful nap for Susie, for the way Linnea and Peter played together contentedly when we took Tim to urgent care last week, and for being able to experience the Nutcracker with Linnea for the first time yesterday (which was NO small thing!). Amid the stripped down traditions I am watching our relationships grow by the lights of the Christmas tree, and as I shop for gifts online and make peace with some unmet expectations, even of a healthy family during the holiday season, God has given me thankfulness. He is teaching me to look for Him in Christmas, perhaps more than I ever have before. That perfect love drives out fear. And I am free of my anxiety! I think the lights around here just got brighter.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

all about... Linnea

I have been especially grateful for my kids lately. It has been something of a hard fall with adjustments into schooling, a rough period of sleep with Susie, and overall life transitions. We have just stumbled out of much of that, and God is meeting us with grace in the areas of discipline for the little ones and patience/compassion for me. I feel like I am seeing them with new eyes. I have my joy in parenting back. Things aren't perfect, but there sure is a lot I'm thankful for. One way I want to celebrate that is a mini series on each of my precious kiddos.

Linnea: age 5

One of the things that impresses me most about Nea is how freely she gives her love to people. She no sooner makes a new friend at church than she's off making a card to take back to her next week (or a Popsicle stick fairy wand, in some cases!). Linnea is a loyal friend and she's just very generous and thoughtful. I love the way she dreams up and creates gifts for people- cards, drawings, book marks, cut out dolls, just to name a few. She is a gift-giver. It sometimes hurts my mama-heart to think that some of these gifts may go under appreciated- but I've realized, what Linnea is putting into them is all that really matters. She is giving her love freely, like God does for us. What a treasure. I don't want to interfere with this one bit (and furthermore need to get better at mailing off her creations!).

Linnea is a quick learner and she thinks deeply about things. She likes academic work and seems to have a natural aptitude for reading and math. I think we know where she inherited each of those skills!  (Hint, the latter is NOT from me!). Her Why? questions are thoughtful and she's reflective by nature. She has a wonderfully detailed memory (again, not from me!) and is very reliable because she's so observant. I am so thankful that I get to be around her all day and experience this part of her personality. I love watching her engage with and make connections in the world around her!

Nannie (as Peter calls her-love!) is like me in that she loves tradition and repetition. She loves looking forward to something in anticipation of recreating a fun memoey, like getting our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving last year (which is the only time we've gotten it that early). Sweetie pie has a true appreciation for what is special. I bought tickets for the Nutcracker in September, and she is really looking forward to it. And by that I mean has been looking forward to it for more than a year, since I planned to take her for the first time when she was 5 (given slightly scary set elements like the Mouse King). She remembers things we've said we would do and builds them up in her mind. This also means I have to be careful about setting expectations because she can get very disappointed, but she is getting more resilient. How amazing to think about the ways she's growing up.

Linnea also loves to HELP. With cooking, laundry, cleaning bathrooms, dusting, playing with Susie, and even showing Petey how to do things or fetching him a pair of socks. She will be a great mom and homemaker one day (oh, and Google employee and ballerina, which are the two other jobs she'd mention if you asked her). She often says, Mom, I want to help you- and sometimes she surprises me by cleaning up the whole playroom as a surprise when I'm off with Susie. Girl knows how to do it!! I try to say yes 90% of the time when Linnea asks if she can help me with something because I want to include her and make her feel how much I value her, and spend that time with her, as well as teach her the skills so she can continue to help our household (sure, you can vacuum and scrub the toilet! Seriously, she loves that stuff), and later on, care for her own household!

What else? Linnea loves to tap dance in her Cinderella shoes, dress up, read/be read to color, make little books, run, jump, so obstacle courses, and play pretend trips with Petey. She loves making Susie laugh and is protective of her brother. She has a sweet, sensitive heart I want to nurture and protect. She loves Jesus and likes memorizing scripture and talking about bible stories. Wow I just love this girl and am so blessed to be her mama!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

spontaneous visit with Grandma!

She called on Monday after breakfast and said, How about today? I said, Great! and we got to see her for dinner. We had a super fun time! And how nice that Susie finally got to meet her Grandma.

There was Scrabble playing and card playing, reading lots of books, a visit to the library and lunch out, brushing of the sheepskin rug, a drive down to Snoqualmie Falls (as promised!), digging in the gravel and playing dodge ball, dragging leaves behind the house, bouncing of the baby, hide and seek, and all manner of fun. Grandma also organized our sadly cluttered laundry room shelving (Tim's tool dump + "kitchen drawer" on steroids) and some of the detritus that has redneck-ified our back stoop ever since we moved in. Undeterred by the cougars, she also took out the garbage for me- in the dark! Thanks, Grandma! We had a really fun time with you!

I got just a few pictures...hop over to Mary's blog for more.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snoqualmie Falls and NW Railway Museum with Papa Jeff

My dad was in town for a couple of days. The kids just call him Papa, but since there's at least one other fellow in this family with that title, I thought I'd specify.

It was a gorgeous sunny but cold day. Hats and scarves came out for the first time (and are still out, brr!). We had a fun time being sprayed by the rushing waterfalls especially. Every future visitor gets a trip to the falls. We'd been there twice before, but not since moving. Had no idea it was so close!

And the Salish Lodge is right there. (Location of the swanky night away Tim surprised me with when I turned 25 and was about to pop with Linnea.) Must.go.back! I'll make a reservation for 2025.