Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas at Our House

We had a very merry one...

Christmas Eve

The new boys :)

Cookies for Santa

Taylor cooking..GET BACK she's a WIFE!
Christmas Morning and wondering if Santa brought switches or presents...
Daddy helped Santa make this table with a Lazy Susan just our size!
Christmas BrunchAunt Sashie and Uncle JoshMoogie!

Carols with PoponI hope yours was merry too...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We Still Believe...

Jeremiah and I have struggled a little lately over whether or not we should "do Santa." We have heard the opinions of other parents who say they don't do it because they don't want to lie to their children. They want their children to know they only speak truth to them, so they don't look at them one day and wonder if all that Jesus stuff is pretend like Santa. I get it, I see it, but it makes me sad.

Some of my most vivid and wonderful memories from childhood are from Santa. Lying in my bed on Christmas Eve. Straining hard to hear noises on the roof, a rumbling in the chimney. My heart beating so fast with excitement and anticipation that I could not force myself into slumber, even though I knew I must if Santa was going to come. I remember when the veil began to slip, and I started asking questions about Santa. My Mom strove valiantly to keep my belief alive, and I believed long after many of my peers had fallen to the way side. There wasn't an exact moment I knew he wasn't real, but instead of being sad or angry or questioning God (as many parents warn me my children will do one day), I felt proud--like I was one step closer to the adult world. I joined forces with Mom, curbing questions and pretending that I believed so that my sisters could still wait breathlessly on Christmas Eve. Slowly, one by one, each sister joined the grown-up team, and even when my baby sister joined us, we couldn't bear to let go of the game. I don't ever remember Mom voicing the fact that she was indeed, Chris Kringle. Even as a married woman, I was still coming down the stairs to see what Santa had brought, and it would have been a sacrilege in our house to breathe a word to the contrary.

So, do I rob my children of these memories? Do I think that I am going to hinder my child's salvation or my tender relationship with them, because I play make-believe with gusto? Really look at what you know to be true about your own parents...How much of it hinges on their attitude towards Santa Claus? Isn't it more about how they lived their life before you every single day? And, more than anything else, there is only one very narrow window in life when a person has the ability to truly believe in magic. I could not know that I squelched that opportunity for my child. It's too precious. It's too valuable, because it's the footprint that's been left in my heart--of that time when magic was real--that brings color and beauty to stories I read even now.

I love you friends who have opted to leave Santa in the pretend realm, and I do respect your reasoning, even if I don't agree with it.

(Just so we're clear and I don't get any "Jesus is the reason for the season" blog comments, we WHOLE-HEARTEDLY believe that over here, and I think it is a travesty to let anything, including Santa, overshadow that. I'm just saying I think there's room for the big guy in red as well.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

STIR Crazy

Are anyone else's children going stir crazy this winter. Too cold to play outside. Too boring to play with the same old toys inside. The only follow their Mom around the house, trying to "help" and ask a zillion questions!!

My friend Lauren sent me this website with crafts for 2 year olds, and the other day we did this one. It gave us an activity we could do together and she could use those little hands she's been so desperate to put to good use. Hope this helps all of your stir crazy homes as well!

On a much more serious note, in the same email that my friend Lauren told me about this website, she also asked if I would tell you about Jenny's Light . This organization began a year ago, when a Mom, just like you and me, was suffering from Postpartum Depression and took her own life and the life of her newborn son. The Mom's name was Jenny. Her husband, Chip, was in residency with Jeremiah. Jenny was only a couple of weeks ahead of me...she carrying Graham while I was carrying Mary Aplin. She and Graham both died on the same day as Mom...December 19th. I was in such shock about Mom that I could hardly register what had happened to them. There were weeks where I could not look at Mary Aplin's smile, almost the exact same age as Graham, without feeling my insides turn over--knowing what Jenny and Chip were missing. When I moved back to Birmingham, a week after Mom, Jenny, and Graham's passing, I began to sift through the piles of mail and found Graham's birth announcement. I haven't posted about this before, mainly because it didn't feel like my story to tell, but Jenny's Light is trying to raise money and spread awareness for other Mom's, like us, who might need help but don't know how to find it. Please check the website out, and give if your heart feels inclined.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Day in My Mind

My family was sitting around the dinner table this weekend, eating steaks to celebrate John David's birthday, when my Dad posed the question, "What would you do if you had one day and money was no object?" My answer came to me surprisingly quickly, and while I have had a few days to mull over and add details, I wanted to share it with you:

My well-rested eyes would flutter open to find myself sunk deeply in a goose down mattress, in a canopied bed made of sturdy wood and delicate silk. My heart would be at peace, knowing that my girls were having a play day with their grandparents, and my husband was still sleeping peacefully at my side. I'd snuggle closer to him and feel his warmth as I looked out the window to see sunlight breaking over the English countryside. He would wake, and we would both revel in the fact that there was no need to hurry out of bed. We'd talk excitedly about the plans for the day, though it would be silly since we have both been dreaming and planning for weeks. Then, he would dress quickly and leave to enjoy an adventure all his own as a maid scurried in to kindle a fire and draw my bath.

After soaking in rose petals and lavender oils in my bath by the fire, and re-reading some choice passages of the eighteenth century love story I've just finished, it's time to dress. This is a crucial step, as one must feel beautiful to truly enjoy a day. I'm going to wear a calico dress, cream with tiny pink and blue flowers scattered intermittently across the soft fabric. Cotton lace accents the borders of the dress and my whole ensemble looks as though Elizabeth Bennett just took it off. It won't, however, actually be an antique dress, because I don't want to spend the day fussing over keeping it perfectly preserved. Once I'm dressed, feeling every bit the Victorian woman, I'll tiptoe down the rutted and worn stairs of our old English manor house and smell breakfast being prepared in the kitchen. A combination of scones baking, eggs poaching, Hollandaise sauce simmering, Canadian bacon frying, and wood burning entices my senses and draws me to the kitchen where I find a plump cook bending her bonnet-covered head over a bowl as she scoops out the Devonshire cream she'll be serving with our breakfast.

She shoos me outside and I laughingly oblige. As I step out the kitchen door into the garden, I find that our breakfast has been set under the newly blossoming cherry trees. I am greeted by two dear friends, who share my love of Victorian novels and are also dressed in period attire. There is a stranger, a man, at the table, and as we approach he stands and introduces himself in a crisp British accent as the world's premier authority on old English literature. We sit down to our breakfast of Eggs Benedict, scones and tea and our new acquaintance enlightens us on the mysteries and symbols and history and themes and cultural jokes, in any novel we care to ask about. The time escapes us, entranced as we all are by his vast knowledge, and I have to excuse myself for I have only one day, and there is much more to be done.

Throughout breakfast I have enjoyed the comfort of knowing that Jeremiah is close by, active in doing something he loves, but now it is time to feel the excitement of enjoying life with him. I rush to the ancient stone barn where he waits with two horses saddled and ready for us. A groom hands me a riding coat, cinched tightly at the waist but billowing large enough behind me to cover the horse's rump. With a nod from Jeremiah we are off, just the two of us galloping hard and fast across the meadow before us, feeling the strength and agility of the animal beneath us who is allowing us to experience what it is he was made for. We slow down, laughing as we approach a little stream and canter the next mile or so through the clear spring water. We talk about the cottage we might build beneath that copse of trees and the fun our girls would have exploring these forests. The horses lead us to a small pond and we realize that the heat of the day is upon us. We take off our riding coats and shoes and run into the cold waters, soaking our clothes and thankful for the respite. After a sufficient wade, we ride back to the manor and hand our horses over to the astonished groom, who is not used to receiving his riders soaking wet.

Once back inside we change into normal clothes, you see Jeremiah was in riding breeches as well. I slip on an airy, blue silk sundress with a cream sweater tucked under my arm for the evening chill. We go out to meet the helicopter that his waiting to take us to...Cinque Terre on the Amalfi coast. The sweet cook has prepared a picnic basket with thinly sliced beef tenderloin on yeast rolls and grilled asparagus spears for us to eat on our trip. We enjoy the snack and the views from the air until fatigue overtakes us and we both fall asleep.

We wake as we land and are ushered to a small table on the beach as the helicopter flies away. A steep cliff rises up behind us and aqua blue water splashes onto the shore in front of us. We both have a Margarita and I put my feet in Jeremiah's lap as we quietly enjoy the brass orange and red light of sunset over the water. Hand in hand, but not locking fingers because that is so ridiculously uncomfortable, we walk the half mile down the beach to the next village carved into the mountainside. As dusk is settling we are seated at a restaurant that we almost missed, so part of the mountain it seemed with its cobbled stone edifices. There is no artificial lighting, only candlelight, and we eat rich pastas and savor locally made wine long into the evening. Finally, we walk through the small seaside town, on the narrow streets, surrounded by the laughter and talking of happy Italians, delighting in life. We fall asleep in our private villa, with the windows thrown open to let in the fresh air off the sea and the sound of the waves crashing into the rocks. I am tucked snugly under crisp white linens, beside my husband, with a fire crackling at our feet...

Anybody else want to share your perfect day???

Christmas Tree Decorating Checklist

One Clark Griswald sized Christmas tree that is beautiful but way too big for our small house...check!One fire roaring in the fireplace (If you are like us and cannot afford to buy more wood, feel free to burn wood scraps from your shop as seen here)...check!
Old school Christmas music crackling on the record player...check!Three mugs of hot chocolate with extra whipping cream...check!One little urchin who is up way too late for Christmas tree decoration...
and who is ready and willing to shatter anything in her grasp...check!
One little elf who is so excited about her hot chocolate that she is acting intoxicated... but is also very willing and able to help...check!

One beautiful tree...
With the flash off for effect...check!
Merry Merry!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"I LOVE a Present"

Today is my Mom's fiftieth birthday. I know she is having a big party somewhere, I just wish it were here. That phrase, the title of this blog, was one of Mom's favorites. Her love language was gift giving, and she did LOVE a present. Big or small. Thoughtful or if it just "looked like her." It didn't matter as long as it was a surprise. While this may sound a little...greedy or something, the saving grace is that she enjoyed giving presents even more than she liked receiving them. She used to go Christmas shopping for her four girls with a TAPE measure. Can you imagine looking beside you in Banana Republic and seeing a little blond woman with a tape measure, stretching it across a pair of pants and eyeing every inch for possible defects? She didn't care if she looked nuts, it was a gift she was buying and she wanted it to fit perfectly.

Almost every time we saw her over the first two years of Pace's life, she had a gift for her. I can see her, standing at my door, her face in a big grin and her hands behind her back, gripping the surprise she was about to lay in my lap. She loved to see little Pace, wearing sweet outfits...that she knew I couldn't afford. She loved to see her playing with the toy she had labored over picking out. She just loved joy, and that was what gift giving brought her. Since she has been gone, I discovered a few gifts she had bought for Pace and stored away in a closet for the time when they would fit her. It has been a way I've kept her alive with Pace...pulling a gift from the closet and saying, "You know who got this for you?!!!" and then hearing her squeal, "Bebe!!" Or, as I dress Mary Aplin in all the sweet little dresses that used to be Pace's and saying, "Pace, Bebe bought this for you when you were a little baby, and look, now Mary Aplin gets to wear her love too."

The dress that Pace is wearing in these pictures is the last gift from the closet... She wore it to church on Sunday and then I let her wear it while we both cuddled up in my bed for her nap. As I lay there and felt her soft, warm body crumpled up next to mine, as I watched her rosebud lips pursed in slumber and heavy lashes laying on her cheek, as I looked at this little pink dress draping her now 3-year-old body, it made me hurt to think that Mom would never get to see what this present looked like on her little Pace. But, it gave me joy to think of her eyes and her hands, pouring over all the dresses in the store until she decided on this one and to imagine the warmth of her hands just having left the fabric. I felt a peace come over me that she can see how Pace has grown and how sweet she looks in her present.

Happy birthday Mom...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our Saturday in Pictures

Since Jeremiah was on call/at the hospital all night last night...since he still wasn't coming home in the foreseeable future...I decided we girls needed to do something to make us feel like it was SATURDAY and not just another day of the week. So, I wore this (recognize it Mal? :))

And these (I would HIGHLY recommend you adding a pair of these Ugg bedroom slippers to your wish list this Christmas. John David's Mom gave us all--four sisters--a pair for Christmas last year and I have hardly taken them off these chilly months)
And loaded the girls up and headed here:

Oh how the sugar and coffee brought joy and energy to my morning! Then, I did the only thing one can do with two sugar-loaded, sticky children--I put them in here:

While they were playing happily in there, I did a little of this (can you tell I'm sitting on the commode...but don't worry the lid is down):

And my favorite verse was this: In case you couldn't read that, it's John 14:21 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

I was enjoying my little devotion so much that the girls soaked a little longer than normal--leaving twenty tiny fingers and twenty tiny toes looking a lot like this:

So, we dried off and dressed in some comfy, cozy outfits:

Because the rest of our Saturday held this--Christmas decorations (I know it's too early. I know you are supposed to wait until after Thanksgiving. But I know I'm about to go out of town and won't be back until after turkey day. And then there are blogs like this, from my friend Kellie, who have made me feel like I'm behind if it's the day after Halloween and I haven't even taken the first step to prepare for Christmas :))!!!! Are you all impressed by the sheer organization? Kellie, I know you're horrified and want to come over and help me make things right :)

Anyway, all those decorations had to be carried up from here--the scary crematorium (Our house used to burn coal before it had central heat and air, and this was the coal room. I lovingly named it the Crematorium long ago--feeling sure that people must have died in there since it is so frightful.)

And then all those decorations had to travel up these, by way of my sorry arms and legs:Jeremiah did manage to make it home sometime during that hub-bub, but he looked like this:

After spending all night in the OR fixing some crack-heads (literally) who were running from the cops and ended up having a head-on collision with them. SO all he wanted to do was get in here:

We let him. Lord knows he needed it, and we were having a pretty nice little Saturday all on our own.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Little Walker

Well, Dapple Dapple took some steps over a month ago, but it has not been until the last week or so, that I would truly say she has started "walking." Here's a little video to prove it, and, as on all of these videos, please ignore my extremely high-pitched nasal voice...I don't THINK I sound like that in real life but maybe I do :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

It Keeps Getting Sweeter

We have been going to marriage counseling for about a year, and I LOVE it. Like, I scheduled a session on my birthday kind of love it. You are probably wondering why we started going, and what I said to myself (and anybody else who asked) was, "We have a good marriage, but I want to have a GREAT marriage. I just don't want to start out our marriage developing bad habits towards each other." That was most of the story, but the other part was that we fought and when we did it was vehemently. Jeremiah could (and still can) bring out an anger in me that is violent. Like, literally I have hit and scratched my husband in states of rage. Does anybody else have a picture in their mind of a cat, flying through the air, with its hair on end :)?

So, I was worried that marriage was turning me into a psychopath, and I wanted to find out why it was that this man I loved more than anybody else, could also send me into these flying rages. Hence you find us in front of Gordon. This man is so godly and so wise and just has the discernment of the Holy Spirit coming out of him all over the place. I don't think I've ever been to see him that he hasn't pulled out his Bible, because everything he teaches stems from the Word. He has taught me way more than one (or ten) posts could hold, but there are two main things that I would like to share. First being, that we are headed for beauty and not destruction in our marriage. I think that a lot of that anger I had was my old type-A personality trying to take control of our marriage--wrap my fingers around it and mold it into what I thought it was supposed to be. If I saw Jeremiah doing something, big or small, that I thought would develop over time into something horrible, I felt the need to hunker down and nip it in the bud. "Oh NO!, You think you can tell me you're going to exercise for 45 minutes and then come back 2 hours later? If I accept this now, just think, in a couple years you'll be working out for four hours--leaving me here by myself to cook dinner and manage both girls--and think of all the other areas you'll start taking advantage of me in if I let this one slip by!" You can see where that mind-set would be exhausting for both of us, and Jeremiah was beginning to think he'd married someone who was perpetually going to blow everything out of proportion. What Gordon has finally helped me understand is that, as Christians, we are becoming MORE like Christ as our walk continues--not LESS. Why then would Jeremiah, who I believe is seeking to be more like Christ, be treating me worse in the future than he does today?

The second lesson (and I don't think I am ever going to get around to what I actually planned to blog about this morning) is the "Tootsie Pop." I like illustrations. They stay in my mind a lot better than words, and when you're in the midst of a fight, you need something that can pop up there easily, because things are sure muddled. Gordon says that, when we first get married, we we are like two Tootsie Pops with a hard outer shell and soft chocolate middle. He says that it takes years of banging those two suckers together (which we were doing quite effectively :)) in order to get to that soft inside where we could mesh together. When he told me that it was normal, this fighting, and assured me through his great experience that it was leading to something magnificent (I feel I should point out here that my physical violence is not OK, and we all were aware of that need for change in me) it was like a weight was lifted off my back.

I felt the need to explain those things so that the rest of this blog would make sense...Couples who have been married a long time usually say things like, "It just keeps getting sweeter." or "We just know each other so well, that it's like we're the same person." These things sound good enough, but for some reason they horrified me. When I listened to them talk, it sounded like the passion had subsided into a friendship, and while I didn't like violence in our own relationship, I do enjoy the passion. It felt to me like our whole relationship was bright red, but I wasn't sure I would exchange the red for blue. Do you know what I mean?

For the last few months, I've been coming to Jeremiah saying, "Things just feel good. I can't really explain it, but I feel so much closer to you." I am not sure if he really feels this too, or if he is just so thankful that I'm not coming to him with the nebulous, "Something just doesn't feel right between us," but no matter the reason, he heartily agrees. Yesterday, when I was sitting in church I suddenly remembered Gordon's Tootsie Pop illustration and I almost shouted for joy in the middle of the sermon...I am nervous to say it, but I think we may finally have knocked off enough of that hard shell that we are beginning to really mesh our chocolate together. It's not that we don't fight anymore, but when we do, I am able to look at him and think, "He may not be showing me that he loves me right this second, but I believe that he does love me. I believe that partially because he is still standing there, willing to work on our marriage even after years of my craziness and partially because I know that Jesus is in there transforming him (and me)." I no longer feel the need to stay mad for the day so that he is adequately "punished" for whatever injustice I feel I've been dealt. The best way to express it, is just like Gordon said, I feel like we're finally together, on the same team, working together towards a beauty that we both desire.

I feel like our relationship has turned from bright red to deep purple. Purple is (I think, I am no art major) an extremely deep and passionate red, with a little blue serenity mixed in. It used to feel like we both had something to prove in every area of our marriage, and it was turning us red. Now, it feels like we've accepted where we both stand, and we've been able to mix in some greatly needed blue. I feel like (in my GREAT five years of experience) I can understand what those women were trying to express when they would tell me that things keep getting sweeter. You don't have to lose passion, it just means you don't have to prove yourself any longer. And y'all, it excites me to think that if it feels this great after only five years, what is it going to feel like when we finish meshing this Tootsie Pop together?

And now, to make a long post even longer, can I make the final point that I've been wanting to reach? If we know marriage is a picture of our relationship with Christ, then I'd like to take that Tootsie Pop analogy one step farther. The first part of my life, I felt a lot like a bright red Tootsie Pop. It's not that I didn't have my tangy little issues, but I must say things on the whole felt pretty bright and shiny. I feel like God loved me enough to say, "There's more of you I need to get to. There's a chocolate layer under this bright, red, shiny stuff that you're going to have to let me touch if we're ever going to have the relationship I created you to share with me." Then, mainly through losing Mom, he allowed me to get banged up pretty bad, and I am here to admit to you that if I could have gotten a hold of Him, I probably would have beat on his chest just like I have on Jeremiah's...maybe harder. But today, at this moment in my life, I find myself going to Him, just like I've been going to Jeremiah and saying, "Things just feel good. I can't really explain it, but somehow I feel so much closer to you."

It's like I've got a huge magnet in my heart, and every time someone mentions His name, it feels like another magnet calls mine to attention, pointing north with all its might, and saying, "Are you talking about my friend Jesus?" Because, while I never would have asked to go through the pain of having all the bright and shinies knocked off my sucker, it has led me to a place where my heart has begun to mesh with His. Our relationship has turned a deep shade of purple. I understand Him in a way I couldn't have before, and part of that love is due to the fact that even after all our fights, He's still standing right here beside me. More real and present than ever, working through this relationship with me, and proving to me that He thinks it's worth it. It wasn't through the good times that I was able to find this sweetness in either relationship. It was through the hard times...Thank you both for still standing and believing it was worth the fights in order to get to the real heart of me.