Monday, December 31, 2012

All I want for Christmas

We had a wonderful several days of Christmas. It all started on Sunday evening, when we journeyed north to David's brother Aaron's home. He invited us to join him and his children and their families for dinner and camaraderie. My mother and father in law, Erma and John, were there as well. I enjoyed the conversation and the meal immensely. Getting to know the family of my children's father actually helps me to understand my kids more.  Conner (and I suspect Ashlyn) has genetically been blessed with a rather impulsive based strain of ADHD, something that definitely runs in the family. Talking about it with the others who deal with this particular malady makes it a bit easier to deal with it. Its a special kind of support system. They all had little gifts for us, which was so kind. All I had to give back was a song or two. Maryn sang "Angels We Have Heard On High" with me in harmony, and then I sang "For Good" and "Grown up Christmas List". Strangely, after nearly 14 years, none of them really knew I had the ability to sing quite like that. It was a good evening with good food and lots and lots of desserts. Apparently my nephew Gentry is a master cookie maker. Good to know.

Christmas Eve I worked in the morning. A mostly quiet morning with just a few of us manning the office. I also got to deliver Meals on Wheels that day, and received smiles and greetings from 11 wonderful and happy seniors I have come to look forward to seeing every other week. I got home and Garrett joined me for a wrapping session so all was ready for the night. I threw together a cheeseball, dip, slush and a salad before heading off to my dad's brother Gary's house.

Gary and Pam are pretty wonderful people and we love them dearly. Their three youngest boys and their spouses (or girlfriends) were there, as was Pam's mother. Bryant, Garrett and Mandy came as well, and my Grandmother enjoyed the evening with us, too. We ate turkey, potatoes, stuffing, salad and Pam's famous rolls. My cousin Nate's wife Lindy made a ton of fabulous desserts we got to sample. We then adjourned downstairs and played Christmas charades followed by the sharing of memories...favorite gifts, favorite Christmases...followed by singing. It was lovely.

We headed home and the kids wriggled into their new PJ's and we quickly settled in. I was able to convince Ashlyn that what Santa really wanted was a snickerdoodle cupcake and Diet Dr. Pepper. Paul would like to convince his future children that what Santa wants is a big juicy steak.

Christmas morning comes it usually does. My kids are against the idea of waiting past 6 a.m. to get up and open gifts. But I enforced a 6 a.m. rule. Well, kind of enforced. Maryn started coming in and giving me updates about how close we were to 6 a.m. about 15 minutes before the actual time.  The kids were enthusiastic and cheerful as they opened their gifts. Everyone got Poptarts and an electric toothbrush (I refuse to buy Poptarts at any other time of the year)

Paul: iPhone,electric razor, remote control helicopter, Orson Scott Card book, a Pleasant Grove Vikings tshirt and a pair of pants (and another shirt)

Maryn; iPod Touch, Silver Bob shoes, Straightener, new coat and a new outfit with leopard print jeans

Conner: Skylanders game and figures for Wii, Angry Birds Air Swimmers, mini remote control car, Beywheels and stadium, new shirts

Ashlyn: iPod Touch, Lego "Friends" house and car, a new outfit that is pink and sparkly and therefore totally her, snow pants, a fish lava lamp

I got a griddle from my sweet Maryn. She had earned her own money to buy it for me. And some socks and lotion as well. Paul gave me a movie and I got pretty hair things from my 2 youngest. But the best gift was from my oldest. After helping me place the gifts under the tree, we stood back and I briefly lamented it didn't look like much (the kids gifts get smaller but more expensive the older they get). He wrapped his arms around me and said "Mom, you are doing a good job. You're a great mom. Anything you can give us is enough." Darn I love that boy.

After we cleaned up, I started making a rather amazing smelling coffee cake to take to Becky's for Brunch at 10. Most of my Downs family was there and the coffee cake was a hit and everyone raved over it. Even though Conner accidentally stepped on it on the way over. See exhibit A below.

Photo: And Conner stepped on the coffee cake en route to my aunts. Nice.

I am buried in gratitude for my family. I have 2 cousins who are about Paul's age. Here they are hanging out. They will all 3 be gone and on missions within the next year and a half. Its kind of cool. And they also happen to be friends.

Photo: The future of the LDS missionary movement. Collins papers go in in January, Tyler's in March or April, and Paul's within the year.

Later in the day, around 2:30, my siblings came over and we got a few more fun things. The boys got Star Wars mugs with hot chocolate, Ashlyn got lip gloss and Maryn got stuff for glitter toes. I got a chick flick and speakers for my iPhone. They also brought the gift from my parents; a soda maker with 4 bottles of syrup flavoring. 
We simply chilled. And played with toys.
Photo: I am thankful for men in my life who never grow up. :) It gives my 10 year old someone to play with. Well, you know... until he gets bored and leaves. And the men are still playing with his toys.
And drank slush. And ate homemade pizza and cheeseball. And watched White Christmas. And then many of us went to go see Les Miserables. It was a great movie, except that we were sitting so close I actually got motion sick.

It was a wonderful Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Chiara Thacker Cameron
I recognize that its true...I haven't documented any of the goings on in our lives lately. I have a legitimate excuse. No really. I do.
I have been busy.

First of all, I finished my Masters Degree. That was huge. Second. Work has been crazy. And the truth is that our computer is somewhat misbehaving. It types terribly. And it makes it difficult to blog. I also find that by the time I get home and get through the evening, I am simply exhausted. And I have been trying to be present in my kids lives with limited success.

But this Christmas Eve I want to look past the controlled chaos that is my life and focus on something. Another friend who is brilliant blogger (here is her blog is you wish to check it out) mentioned in a post yesterday, how Christmas will simply magnify what is going on in your life. If you are struggling, your struggles will seem greater, If you are feeling blessed, the blessings will also seem more than you can hold in your life.

We are somewhere in between, and it completely depends on which side of our lives you look at. I feel both blessed and frustrated at alternate times. It depends on the day. Sometimes the moment. And I think that's okay. Because I think pushing through each day with a blind belief that all is ALWAYS well is not realistic. And possibly unhealthy. Life is messy. And I'm pretty sure its messy on purpose. And often, blessings and struggles walk hand in hand on the same pathway.

Here are some examples:

I miss my parents and my siblings in Ohio. Sometimes so much it hurts. But I am so grateful for my brothers and my sister who are here. They are a continuous blessing in my life and a pleasure to be around. As are my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. I love them so much. My life here without them would be different. We are finally close to David's family. We are taking the opportunities as we can to continue to build strong and valuable relationships with them. I am so grateful for that.

We have a ward with a small youth program. But my kids have amazing leaders who love them and have created personal relationships with my them. And so my kids love them right back. My kids miss their cousins, but have made friends near us. We have wonderful people in our ward who have become wonderful friends. Is life not more full in general with good friends?

Speaking of great is my job? I confess, I wish I could make more money. But I feel overly blessed to be in the office I am in, to be surrounded by the people I know, to have them in my life. It is worth the pay off. I never dread going to work. I like what I do, and I happen to be very good at it. Its a good combination that leaves my career life lounging comfortably in a valley of satisfaction.

Things are tight financially. It seems they always are. Yet we always seem to work it out in the end. And we have all the we need and some of the things that we want. Like the fact that a new PS3 mysteriously showed up on our doorstep within a day after our old one had broken. It was a bit of Christmas magic, and left us in tears at such generosity.

If I'm being honest, I wish my personal life was in a different place. It is a source of frustration for me, mostly because the Lord and I disagree on timing. But I will be even more honest; we are fine. We are more than fine. We are great. My kids are growing, and healthy, and learning, and (mostly) great and capable. We have a warm home and steady income. We have people who love us, food to eat, a car that works and opportunities before us to make our situation better.

I can not think of a more merry way to spend our Christmas.