I always have to warm up to Christmas. As much as I want it to be the most wonderful time of the year, sometimes it’s hard for me to be very joyful when the roads are icy and everywhere you turn there’s a barrage of commercialism.
This year it felt like it took extra effort on my part to really get into the Christmas spirit, but in the end I feel like all the work and soul searching has actually helped me get into the true spirit of the season more than I have the last couple of years. One of the best realizations I’ve had is that even though I want to create beloved traditions, the most memorable and special moments have been small ones – moments I might not have had if I didn’t take time to slow down and notice them.
This year, it was the unseasonably warm afternoon we went to the park to fly a kite and all laid down in the grass to look at a ladybug while we soaked up the sun. It was the night we tucked Cooper into bed and he requested the song “Angels We Have Hear on High” and then sang all the lyrics with us. It was the evening Noel and I binge watched some of our church’s Christmas messages with tears in our eyes. And today it was the moment I was leaving the grocery store with the kids and Cooper took Ellen’s hand and the two of them giggled as we crossed the parking lot. I looked at them in their pajamas with their unkempt hair and thought, “I love these kids so much” and said a silent prayer of gratitude. I am so grateful for those small moments that remind me what is most important in this world and especially grateful for the push this time of year brings to reflect on the birth and life of our Savior.
I forgot the number one rule of our family. I went grocery shopping with both kids (not my rule violation) and somewhere in between loading people and produce I put my wallet on top of the car. I was completely unaware of my infraction until I received an email five hours later from an unfamiliar address asking me to call them because they’d found my wallet on a highway onramp. The man who’d found it kindly drove out of his way to return the wallet and all its contents. Everything was a little bit trashed, but all the important stuff that could have led to the ruin of my credit score was accounted for.
I never thought I would be happy to have a complete stranger rifle through my wallet, but in this case I definitely was. (I’m also glad I’d slipped a few of my business cards in there so my contact info was readily available.) Thanks to my new favorite CDOT employee this reminder to never put things on the roof of the car ended without too much pain. It’s nice to know there are still good people in the world.
(Reason one and two why we instituted the never put anything on the roof of the car rule.)
We spent the last couple days of 2012 being incredibly ill with a stomach bug. (Apparently there’s been kind of an epidemic here in Colorado. So glad we could be a part of that. Thank you, Norovirus.) For 48 hours there was always at least one person vomiting at any given moment and those that weren’t were suffering from body aches and/or fevers. It was pretty bad. It’s amazing how much a bout of sicknesses can increase your gratitude for things we typically barely even think about. By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around we were over the worst of it. We didn’t do anything fancy, but we saw everything through new eyes (and taste buds), so it made it seem fantastic.
“Isn’t it great that we can put all these puked on blankets in the washing machine and they come out clean!?!”
“These are seriously the best Saltines I have ever eaten, ever!”
“I don’t think I’ve ever tasted soup this good!” (Said about the simple vegetable, noodle and broth soup we whipped up.)
“Isn’t it great to just sit here on the couch and not feel like you’re going to die?!?”
To top it all off, we celebrated New Year’s East Coast time while eating bowls of tapioca pudding and were sound asleep by 10:15 our time. It was pretty awesome, and I mean that, I really do.
I went to the store yesterday in search of some silly, but festive prizes for our church Turkey Trot and after combing the entire store I only found a tiny selection of paper plates and cheap turkey centerpieces tucked away in a random corner. However, the WHOLE store was decked out for Christmas and all prepped for their “Black Friday” sales. (Technically, the sale now starts Thanksgiving evening, but I guess they thought we wouldn’t recognize this as a threat to annihilate Thanksgiving if it was still referred to as a “Friday” event.) We all know that I can be a bit of a grinch when it comes to some Christmas topics, but I don’t think I’m being irrational here. Could you just back off and give us some space to eat delicious food and reflect on how blessed we are for for just a second before we focus on all the things we don’t have? If I could just eat my pie in peace, I would be ever so grateful.
Way back when Noel and I were just dating (Five whole years, people!), we went Christmas shopping together for the first time. It was a fairly awful experience and I’m pretty sure the only reason anyone forgave us for our lame and thoughtless gifts was because we got engaged days before Christmas and everyone was so sickened by our twitterpation happy for us. Since then we’ve greatly improved our holiday planning and I think we may have even shed the title “Worst Gift Givers Ever.”
This year we’re celebrating Christmas on our turf and I’ve been generally very excited about the responsibilities and possibilities this holds. The control freak in me was ready for this year to be the perfect mix of holiday cheer and spiritual reflection. Through obsessive micromanagement of Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Remember the Milk it was all going to happen.
This morning I was hard at work on some of today’s tasks: wrapping gifts to mail to family and cooking toffee while listening to Christmas music. Well, my kid pilfered 6 or 7 decadent Idle Isle Nutballs (Imagine a rich, creamy nougat dipped in chocolate and rolled in roasted almonds.), wiped his chocolate smeared face all over my pants, spilled red glitter all over the floor, and then fell off a chair while trying to reach the tupperware of peanut butter cups. As I waddled around (pregnant, remember?) with the wailing boy on my hip searching for his binky, I was feeling less than sympathetic. Once he quieted down, I set him on the floor to play with his cars and meticulously burnt a batch of toffee. Frustrated, I left the toffee monstrosity on the stove and began to clean up the disaster formerly known as my kitchen.
Hours later, after putting the boy down for a nap I returned to the toffee. I scraped it into the garbage and then crossed it off my to-do list because Christmas isn’t about toffee or being Super-Holiday-Woman. Christmas is about family, putting others first, and celebrating the birth of our Savior, and often the best way to do that is to ignore the to-do list and abandon well-laid plans. So, today, I’m glad I burnt the toffee.
It’s hard to say whether yesterday’s low was when Cooper cried inconsolably from 12am-2am or when we forgot about the bike on the roof rack and tried to drive into the garage. By the time we swept up the shattered glass and plastic in the driveway and found our chicken dinner half cooked in a dead crockpot, we were feeling pretty defeated. Famished, we threw the chicken in the oven and decided to start dinner with salads, but paused first to say a prayer. As I expressed gratitude that “the motion sensor was the only thing that broke when we drove our car into the garage with the bike on top” the whole situation suddenly struck me as being very funny and I found myself suppressing giggles. I hurried and ended with an “amen” just in time for Noel and I to erupt into deep belly laughs.
Noel sent me a link to an NPR snippet titled “Want to Live to 100? Try to Bounce Back From Stress.” The clip talked about a 109-year-old lady that still lives at home. Her gerontologist attributes her longevity not to exercise or a healthy diet, but to her “adaptive competence” or “the ability to bounce back from stress.” I’m not the best at keeping a positive attitude when difficult or even minorly irritating things happen, but I’ve definitely felt better the times I’ve laughed instead of cried. Joseph B. Wirthlin wisely said, “the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life” (from “Come What May and Love It“). There are a million things to want in life (and I surely don’t have a small wishlist), but I’m learning that one of the most valuable things I may ever possess is a good sense of humor.
Today I am grateful for many things, but I will only list one: our dishwasher.
Noel and I enjoy cooking (although becoming one with our “new” oven is another story), but we limited ourselves to the items Noel was able to realistically schedule into his Google calendar during a four hour period. Ten minute notifications for each step of the meal is what happens when someone obsessed with scheduling and list making marries someone that is obsessed with technology. Needless to say, it worked. At 3:15 (the goal was 3:00) we were ready to dive in. Because I want you to be impressed, I will list our menu:
It is wonderful to be able to drive on the interstate and do my shopping in the middle of the day while everyone else is at work, especially at this time of year. I love being in a store when the cashiers are practically begging me to go through their line and they’re still in a pretty good mood since nobody’s been a jerk to them yet.
When I lived in Logan and ventured out in the middle of the day I felt like I fit in with the middle of the day crowd. I remember one day in particular that I went to JoAnn’s while I was pregnant. As I examined bolts of fabric I noticed that all the other ladies there were either pregnant or toting around young children and everyone’s projects ranged from baby quilt to nursery curtains. After feeling like such an eyesore when I worked at the middle school or wandered onto USU’s campus, I felt like I’d finally found the place where I belonged. I even jokingly told Noel later that day, “I think I’ve found my people.”
It isn’t quite the same here. Today I needed to pick up a few items to finish a Christmas gift, so Cooper and I headed to Hobby Lobby. We’d had an ambitious morning, so we arrived about 10 minutes before the store opened. As I sat in the car talking to Cooper, I looked around the parking lot and realized that we weren’t alone. About two minutes before opening time, car doors opened and a stream of older ladies headed into the store. When I went to check out, the cashier informed the woman in front of me that the coupon she’d given her was a Michael’s coupon, which started a whole lot of purse rummaging. I had to suppress a chuckle at how stereotypical the situation seemed. I was a little alarmed though, when I held up the line myself while I rummaged through my coin pocket trying to locate six pennies. Thankfully no one seemed to mind.
So, today I am grateful for crowd avoidance and the camaraderie I share with little old ladies.
I know we often clump this one with our automatic I-didn’t-even-turn-on-my-brain-to-think-of-this-response answers to what we’re grateful for, but I really am grateful for it. Food is the reason why Cooper no longer screams at us the whole time we try to eat dinner. It’s also the reason why I’ve been getting more sleep. Having to bathe Cooper practically every day is completely worth it.
Today, I am feeling especially grateful for soup. Snowy day, sunny day, special occasion, or sick day, I am always in the mood for soup. I am especially grateful for a husband that endures my obsession with soup. I love how versatile soup is: throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, simmer for a while, and add some seasonings. I can’t recall ever ruining a soup. Tonight we’re having a creamy chicken and brown rice soup with squash. Side of breadsticks of course. Delicious.