Christmas Giving

This year Christmas was a little different. My son is 17 months and I envisioned him ripping through gifts, playing with them while we all opened ours and then us eating and having a fabulous day. It sort of happened that way…

Our morning began at 7:45 which was pretty good for a toddler. We got him dressed and had a few of Santa’s toys downstairs ready to see. He was immediately crying though due to a cold and wasn’t in the best of mood. I could tell this would not be the amazing moment of joy I had anticipated. Alas, we descended downstairs and my husband videoed C’s reaction to the Ballapalooza! After a while he got the hang of it and enjoyed the balls. Thankfully I had an hour before my parents came over and was able to make a breakfast casserole.

Some time later, my family arrived and chaos ensues. Presents, food all over the place and that damn casserole was still not done. We decided to open stockings since breakfast wasn’t ready and that was a bit chaotic as well. My son would not let me put him down and every time I did anyway, it was screaming and moaning that would wake the dead. This was not my idea of a peaceful Christmas.

Now almost two hours later, my eggs were still runny and the sausage was swimming thanks to a 25-year-old oven that works horribly. Back in the oven. We went ahead and started opening gifts, one at at time and I was amazed at all of the gifts around us. I truly felt like we went overboard. IT’s so easy to want to give people gifts and I know my family is just as happy yesterday as they were the year I made all my gifts in college. And I am one of those who is happier to give than receive. I love seeing everyone open gifts that they love and I spend lots of time thinking out what to get each person. But I couldn’t help but think about the girl on my angel tree and knowing that without my gifts, she might not have gotten anything else. Did the clothes fit? Did she even like those sweaters? And all of those others out there who did not have their name on an angel tree and what did they get?

Someone very close to me lives in a homeless shelter and it’s not because he is a bad person or a criminal or anything negative. He just needs some time to get on his feet and figure some things out. I especially thought about him yesterday and hope he enjoyed opening the gift card I sent him, knowing someone cared. I’m guessing on some level we would have all been disappointed if all we got was a gift card or JUST some clothes. My heart kept thinking about those in need and the weird juxtaposition of all of the gifts surrounding our house. There are lots of people out there who through no fault of their own, don’t have as much. It makes me question if we are just fortunate or if we perhaps go overboard.

Thankfully my family is one that shows their love through more than monetary things. I never grew up having the latest and greatest of anything but I also never went without. While some of my friends got brand new cars at 15, mine was 13 years old. But what my dad DID teach me was that hey, at least I got a car at 15. But we were always given everything we NEEDED and many times things we WANTED. I wish this were the same for every child out there.

My Christmas day lasted yesterday from 7:45 until 6 p.m. Two meals, lots of tears, some arguing, some laughing, and lots of squeals of delight from one very happy 17 month old. In the days leading up, I had two other Christmas celebrations with the in-laws and things were very similar. Wonderful meals, laughs, some gift-giving of some beautiful gifts and just enjoying being around one another. Some of our gifts were from the dollar store and others were from the hands of a talented soul. Some had diamonds on them and others were pictures of our family.

I’m not sure what the exact dollar amount is one should spend on Christmas and I’m not sure how much of helping others at the holidays one should do in order to spread the love. I do know that none of it would be possible without the birth of Jesus though and how much He gave in order for us to receive. I have told my husband we need to make sure our son grows up knowing others are not as fortunate and we need to give of ourselves not only at Christmas but especially at Christmas. I do not want him to grow up thinking Christmas is only about toys and things with no value.

There is a family in my church, a girl I coach on basketball, who makes ornaments themselves and sells them in the narthex before and after worship. They give the proceeds to an orphanage our church is affiliated with. In the bulletin one day, there was a note that encouraged people to check out the ornaments and it said, “Remember, in order for the X kids to receive, they must give.” I thought this was so profound because they were knowing that they must give their time and talents to support the orphans. I only hope my child will be as willing to give.

My day ended much better than it began. My son went down for a nap while we opened our gifts, one at a time, and once he awoke, it was all his turn. He played on his new slide for hours and slept 13.5 hours last night. It was truly a special day. I thank God for all He has given me and blessed me with this and every day. I just hope I will always remember the true meaning of Christmas and celebrate the love of Jesus and my family instead of the gifts taking up my entire living room floor.


Can You Spot the Toddler? 

Friday Night Lights

Most weekends in my house begin a little something like this: Friday night, come home exhausted and change into comfy clothes, whip up something to eat that is typically microwavable or deliverable and void of the nutrition I try to give my family the other six days of the week, and settle into the couch for a sub-par Netflix rental (seriously, I can’t seem to get anything GOOD from Netflix lately). Our son is fast asleep upstairs and my husband and I might look over at one another with satisfying smiles as if to say “good job honey, we survived another week of this full-time-working-parenting thing.” The silence mingles with the TV’s special effects of aliens landing in the background, and by 11 p.m. I am struggling to keep my eyes open. The early morning is swimming around my head knowing it will come whether I want it to or not.

 But last Friday, we decided to do something different. Yes, there was still the pizza delivery and Netflix resting on the table, its envelope just waiting to be opened. But instead we did not turn on the TV. After putting our son to bed we decided to build a fire in our fire pit out back and have a date night. We took a bottle of wine out to the campsite, manipulated the monitor into the tree where it would stay in range, turned on some tunes, brought the dog out for some late-night fun and settled into our bonfire mode.IMG_2894.

 The stars were in full force, and punctuated the navy sky. It reminded me of one of my favorite college memories. My friends and I were camping at a concert and after one too many drinks, I was trying to point out the constellations. Each of us leaned our head backs and stared up into the night sky. I pointed out what I hoped was the North Star, leaning to the left, while my other girlfriend pointed to the right that she saw it. Another girlfriend pointed to an entirely different section of the night sky, saying she saw the same cluster of stars that we really had no clue what they were forming. Our one friend noticed these silly ladies thinking we were all Galileo and proudly told us we were in fact not even looking at the same stars, and none of us were right.

Thankfully my star-gazing prowess has improved and I could finally point out the Big Dipper with my husband. His affection for the moon is always a joke we laugh about. “Look at that heavenly body” he once told me pointing upward. The fire crackled and the wine warmed our throats. The conversation was one of our week, our marriage and our love for whatever song was on the iPod at the time. As soon as the talk got too serious, the monitor would go off or the wine would run dry. The only special effects were the flames dancing around the brick pit my husband built for me a few years back. We laughed, realizing our dog had super-powers of seeing in the dark and could run circles around the uneven terrain in the yard. But alas, it was more so the fact that he spends all day outside and knows the yard like the back of his paw.

We lost track of time it seemed and for a while I felt as though we weren’t in our backyard. I realized how easy it is to lose track of “us” sometimes when life gets too hectic. It’s easy to think we are connecting over a shared smile or familiar and obligatory kiss good bye in the morning and “I love you” at night. None of it means we love each other any less, it just means we are comfortable and at ease. But without saying anything, it was obvious we both longed for a night like long ago. A good old-fashioned date night where connecting with one another was the thing that made us fall in love to begin with. Silly inside jokes and amazement at how far we’ve come. This is what Friday night should be. How I wish it would last forever.

If only we didn’t have a 6:30 a.m. wake up call on Saturdays.



Turning the Other Cheek?

I am regularly asked to join prayer requests for friends at church, friends from work, home, wherever. Sometimes I even join them for people I don’t know. Knowing the power of prayer, I figure I have a few more to spare each day and can definitely pray for those who need God’s healing hand.

Recently, I joined a prayer list for a young girl suffering from Shaken Baby Syndrome. I found myself drawn to her updates and praying every night for her healthy return. How her father could shake her and cause such damage to her tiny brain was beyond me. Many nights my son has frustrated me, last night even—his screaming into my ear in the bathtub made me question my sanity at having another child and hoping I wasn’t going deaf—but I would never abuse him nor blame him. It was a frustrating moment and I just put him down and walked away for about 30 seconds.

Reading about and praying for this baby girl every day led me to the Facebook prayer pages of several other babies suffering from abuse and medical issues. I found myself having a hard time remembering all the families I was supposed to pray for each night because I’d joined so many prayer chains. I was praying for babies with unspeakable genetic issues and found myself every night forgetting to pray to God with thanks for my own healthy family.

As I went down the rabbit hole of these abused babies, I finally had to delete the Facebook page of the baby with SBS. I know I will continue to pray for her each night so my deletion does not mean she will be ignored. But I could no longer read another case about child abuse. I hear it on the news and online and even in my place of silly time-wasting, Facebook. I can not wrap my brain around this evil act and as so many know how precious it is to bring a child into this world, we with our bare hands can reverse it so quickly. We are adults and need to act like ones.

I often wonder if I waited too long to have kids. Maybe I will be 40 when my kids are still in diapers and in my 60s when they graduate college. But I now know in my 20s I was not mature enough to handle the lack of sleep; the giving up of fun things and most important, the patience necessary to handle a screaming infant or toddler. My maturity level just wasn’t there. I’m sure there are plenty of people who at 21 or 25 or 28 are mature enough to handle this, but I wasn’t.

I think sometimes we as first-time parents try too hard to have this bravado, and we forget it’s okay to ask for help. We think we must know it all and therefore get frustrated when something doesn’t go like we see in the movies or hear about from friends. If our kid isn’t walking by a certain age or feeding him or herself or reciting the alphabet by 3, we think we’ve failed. And in those failures and frustration, I wonder if that is when people abuse their children. But in reality, we are all just doing the best we can and children progress at their own pace.

I feel bad for having to take myself off the prayer chain on Facebook but I can promise that little girl I will continue to pray for her. I just couldn’t take the daily updates about yet another child suffering from the impatience of a monster. An infant, a toddler and even a grade-school child, are still so young and impressionable and irresponsible with their actions, they deserve no such thing. In fact, no one deserves abuse, at any age. But my heart breaks daily over those Facebook updates, so for now I must remove myself. I cannot take it anymore. I know I am a coward to turn the other cheek but I hope there are other prayer warriors out there who can sustain the hope these babies need.

Missing Something


My silly Christmas angel

As I look around my house and see the Christmas tree, I am excited for Christmas this year with my son. He is almost 17 months and will no doubt be able to enjoy Christmas a little more this year. I tried to get him a few things that will have some longevity to them and allow his development to continue to flourish. He is bored with his singing toys, his rattles, his squeaky balls. Even some of the light-up devices and blocks are not as fun as they once were. I think about the puzzle under the tree, the musical frog rocker waiting to be wrapped in the attic, and the giant slide/rock-climbing wall device sitting in the garage waiting to be assembled. I know it will be such a joy to watch him unwrap these items and grow into them as he did the rattle, squeaky ball and push-car that yells, “Ka Chow!”

But somewhere in all this growing and developing, I’m realizing he is no longer my little baby. The swing that once doubled as a nap place is gone and upstairs; the pack and play no longer blocks the fire place to double as a holding cell for me to use the bathroom and him to stay “put”; and burp cloths — once enough for there to be a clean one on hand for every hour — are now collecting dust in a wicker basket under the coffee table. Where has my baby gone?

I know I complained and bitched and moaned a lot when my husband was on second shift. Yes, it was difficult and I had a lot of help from friends and family and God who listened to my prayers. We are now not just a weekend family but now one of routine in the morning, breakfasts together, dinners together, book readers and even a group/family kiss. Yes the latter is a bit gross and probably only something the three of us can enjoy, but when my baby watches me kiss my husband good bye in the morning and decides he wants to also tell us “bye” in his own slobbery way, I indulge the momentary grossness and love every second of it.

Two nights ago my husband chopped my son’s hair in a haphazard way that displeased me to say the least. Not one to ever really get angry, I some-what silently watched my infant transform right before my eyes. Knowing he now looked like a British rock star with a redneck mullet, I realized we would have to get his hair cut for real this weekend. I know it will be fine and he will hopefully look just as cute (minus some bangs my husband chopped off), but I can’t help but think this might be the last few days of baby-dom. I realize i sound like so many other annoying mothers who blog and put posts on Facebook that make people roll their eyes and fake vomit. Yes, I am one of those today. I am nostalgic and missing the days I complained about.

When my son was first born, I thought each day lasted at least 30+ hours. Breastfeeding around the clock makes you so aware of time and even five months later, I was still breastfeeding and thinking, “when will he grow up so we can do X or X.” But now, as we lay him to bed each night, he no longer wants to cuddle or snuggle or have me sing to him. He wants to read book after book and then screams and pulls my hair when it’s time to get in the crib. My little baby is gone.

But then in the mornings, as I wake him and he uses his sign language to tell me he wants to listen to his “fish” music (is that ironic or what!), I turn on his aquarium and we begin our routine. “Ox” he yells out as he knows it’s time to pick out socks. “Book” he says thinking it might be Saturday and we can read a book in our pajamas. I tell him to take “off” his shirt, and he points to the light switch, which we also turn “off” each day. He’s putting words and sounds together. Somehow, this is becoming the same level of connection I had when we snuggled, yet now we’re communicating. We walk down the stairs looking at the rows of family photos and he points to mommy and daddy and his favorite, a giant canvas of Baby C. He turns off the lights downstairs and signs “food,” not because he is hungry I’m guessing, but because he knows his Dad has breakfast waiting for him as soon as we turn the corner. He knows we eat before school and then we put on “oos” or shoes. He then shakes his hand to say he is all done and our family does our group kiss goodbye. It is our little morning routine, one that he has picked up quickly and is now narrating through sign language and monosyllabic abbreviations.


So as I look around the room and miss the swing and the newborn-sized diapers and even the sleepless nights, I accept that we are now in toddler-dom and I have a little person in my life rather than a little baby. Hopefully God will bless me with another child one day, but for now, I’ll try to enjoy each phase and not wish one away or hold on too tightly to the one we’re leaving.