Monday, December 27, 2010


Everyone is reporting on their Christmases, so I guess I should too. :)

We had a quiet Christmas, a good one, but quiet.  We did end up going shopping and buying a small gift for everyone.  I got wool socks.  You'd have to know me to know how absolutely delighted I was with them.

I made all the traditional food - in small quantities.  We had a nice day.  Except that my oldest two got sick.  A teen who will not eat Christmas dinner is sick.  We did go visit a friend in the evening for a quiet time of playing games, but nothing else.

Two days later, my daughter and I are sick.  My son just came out of his bedroom to show me that he has bumps on the back of his tongue and was worried about them.  I asked him to check my tongue, and sure enough, matching bumps.  So I suspect he will be down tomorrow. Sigh.

But, it isn't that bad to be sick together.  We are together, and we are at peace.  It just means taking turns taking care of each other.

We do miss family this year.  It seems odd to make the traditional family dishes, but have no family.  Some things have happened in my family that means we will never have my whole family gathered at one place ever again.  My youngest brother has made some choices making that impossible.  Christmases are hard for me because of this.  It is a horrible situation, one that can not be fixed, and there is a deep sadness in it.

So late Christmas night, after I had been a good mom and given my kids good memories, I lay in bed wrapped up in my husband's arms and cried.  The choices that my brother has made are so terrible that we can not even miss him because it blows our minds what he did.  But, once I had a brother, and now I do not.  There is a deep, quiet sadness in that.

I am thankful for my immediate family this year, for the peace, the love, the joy in being whole.  My heart hurts for two other families who do not have this.... whose father still is missing.  I am thankful for friends who are like family that we can drop in to their house on Christmas day and not be guests.  I am thankful for a Christmas story that includes more than we look at on Christmas day...

.... a mother not able to provide what she wanted to provide for a baby...
.... parents who were mocked and scorned for a pregnancy and chose to carry that unfair shame...
.... a family displaced because of government decisions that would not bend even in the face of their difficult timing...
.... the news coming to the stinky, despised ones first - as if God delighted in telling them before others...
.... a family becoming refugees, fleeing in the night for their lives...
.....this young family living as foreigners in a land that was not welcoming to them or their beliefs.  Separated from their family and friends...
.... God's quiet acknowledgment that Rachel wept for her children and refused to be comforted.  Grieving people are awkward at Christmas.  People want them to "get over it some" so they don't ruin other people's happy mood.  Yet how do you forget and go on?  The first Christmas story contains the story of real grief that refused to be comforted.  Even my tears - for my daughter, for my brother - they all have a part in the Christmas story.  Grief is written in it, real grief. (It just doesn't make it into the carols or happy Christmas cards!)

In fact, Christmas was a mess.  A mess of messed up plans, hardship, difficulty, hurts, pain, betrayal, and in the middle of all that, the Hope that came into the world.

We have that Hope.  It is precious to us.  Life this year is precious to us.  Even with its tears.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Child's Acceptence

I was standing outside my daughter's class the last week of school.  She was going to go to a friend's after class and I had brought her play clothes for her.  I stood quietly out of the way listening to the classroom routines.

They put away their papers, they picked up garbage.  They readied for lunch.  Then the teacher said, "Ok, if you have a sister, you can line up first."  Most of the class came tumbling over to the door, and I felt sad for my daughter, to be alone.  A little wave of sadness went over me for the daughter who is alone instead of the two giggling girls I should have.

But then I saw her dark little head jostling around with those in the line up first, and I was puzzled for half a second.  I thought she hadn't heard the instructions correctly.

Then I smiled.  She did.  My daughter is bright.  She heard them.

It is just that she has always known that she does have a sister.  My heart smiled.  These little moments are a gift for my heart, for the quiet part that grieves my baby who died before I held her. 

The world so often tells us to "get over it" or to "go on".  People think about getting help for us if we continue to remember, so we learn to be quiet.

But the giggle of my daughter lining up, "I do have a sister.  She just lives in heaven". 

A gift.  My daughter is not forgotten.  She is remembered by her brothers and her sister. 

I hugged my daughter and handed her her play clothes and left with a smile.  Grief of a baby is often worse because it seems that there is no one to remember, that your child will slip into the mists of never being known, remembered.  I smiled quietly - she has not been forgotten.

You know what else?  My kids are less afraid of death than I was as a child.  Death is only to them, going on in life.  Heaven is not a strange place - it is where their sister is, where we will all be together one day.  I am thankful that I did not keep their sister's short life and sudden death from them to sheild them.  I gave them a gift with the knowledge of her existence - they know there is a reality beyond death.

And they surprise me with their matter-of-fact acceptance of the sister none of us has yet met.  That makes me heart smile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Empty Tree

Our Christmas tree is up.  It is very pretty, all gold and red.  It sits lit and welcoming in the corner of our living room.  Underneath it... empty.

It isn't that we don't have money to buy gifts.  It isn't even that we don't have friends and family who will send gifts.  We have all that.  I know some gifts are on the way from relatives.  But we have not bought any for ourselves.  We have more money this year than last year.  We have more peace.  But we have an empty tree.

We've talked about gifts, but no one has come up with any ideas.  Not even the kids can think of anything they really want.

I think we learned a lesson this year.  We have everything we want.  We just can't wrap it and put it under our tree.

Years ago, our family was fractured by stress and relationship problems.  This year we have peace.  (We even could win the cute couple award!)

Early this year, we thought we might lose our daddy.  We have him now.

We are all together, warm, happy, at peace.  How do you wrap that?  There is nothing more we really want.  We are content.

We may not buy gifts this year.  We may go to the store and jointly buy a small gift for everyone.  We may chose to do something as a family instead.  But it is not what is wrapped and under the tree that makes our eyes glitter and our hearts beat.  It is the simple joy of curling up by the fire playing cards.  Of peace and giggles through the house.  A decorated tree and some Christmas cookies.

We have only bought one gift this year.  We picked a patient at the old people's home and spoiled him rotten.  We got him new socks, a tin of chocolate, a book to write in, some nice smelling aftershave. 

We have all we want.  This year, our tree is empty, but our hearts are full.

Cleaning Out Cupboards

I finally did it.

I knew I needed to.  That cupboard sat there a total disaster after my friend and I hurriedly threw everything back into it the morning we heard my husband was missing.  I was expecting the rest of our team to arrive within an hour to sit with me, and we needed the living room cleaned up again.  The kids and I had emptied it the night before with great plans to sort it all out and clean it up that day... but that day turned out so differently than we thought.  People would be arriving, and the room needed to be neat.

So my friend and I hurriedly threw everything back in the cupboard and made pots of tea.  When my kids came home from the park, she took them home with her, not telling then what had happened - only that they were going for a sleepover.  I put the tea and cups on the coffee table and went and stood by my front window with the phone in my hand.

Expecting to hear from people.  Expecting them to come.  We would sit through this day together.

Except they never came.  I went more than 24 hours alone before anyone came over to help me carry the news.  Twenty- four hours where I stared blankly, almost not thinking, at the snow falling outside the window.  Where I curled up on my kitchen floor and cried.


Eventually, I cleared the tea things from the coffee table and drank the cold tea.

We survived, and God worked a miracle.

But the cupboard sat there unopened again.  Once or twice, I have opened it with the intention to clean it out, to sort it out.  But I was met with a jumbled mess of pain.  I just could not do it.  Memories - of laughing with my kids as we emptied it into piles, of throwing it back in with no sense of order, of being left alone.

Yesterday, my oldest son threw up.  He's fine, but I kept him home from school.  In the quiet day with a kid that was not that sick, I opened the cupboard.  We did it together.  Now it is organized - neat piles of puzzles and games ready to be played.  Videos sorted into their cases ready to be watched over the holidays.  Clean and organized.

It feels good.  Just having the bulging mess gone feels good.  Time to start a new chapter.  Time to play games and do puzzles with friends.  It may be with new friends this time, but it is time to laugh and play again.  Time to sort out that cupboard and face the pain of cups on a coffee table that were never drunk from.

I couldn't have done it without my oldest working beside me.  Children are a blessing, and I am thankful for mine.  Thankful to see the others come home from school, see the organized games, and grab one to lay on their tummies in front of the fire and play.  It is time to laugh and giggle again.

Some questions may never have answers, but the cupboard is cleaned out and it is time to enjoy life.

Time to make more tea and cookies for new friends. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

God's Grace!

We just got called "a cute couple".  So cute in fact that the receptionist told her sister about how cute we were together.  Ha!  Looking back a year or two, and that would amaze me...  God's grace.

But my husband has done a great job of caring for me.  He still is since I am not totally independent yet.  He's bossy, I'll tell you that.  Made me sleep.  Made me take my pills so I would sleep.  Didn't let me shower even though I so wanted to sneak one in and not tell the doctor.  He's bossy.

But he also managed the kids, the schedules, the cooking, the shopping, and even holding my head when I threw up. (Pain medication and me are NOT a good mix!)  He set his alarm to wake me up to take my pills o schedule and pulled himself out of bed in the mornings to fix breakfast for the kids.  He's a great husband, if a little bossy.

The good news is that four days of drug enforced sleeping did conquer the remnants of my cold and I am feeling mostly better again.  I'm still dragging tired, but that may clear up once all these drugs clear from my system.

I am almost healed from surgery.  Not quite yet, and that lingering "not yet" frustrates me.  (I am not extremely patient.)  I am a little worried.  I thought I would be doing better by now and I am not yet.  The doctor is pleased, so I should be too, but I will be happier when things are back to normal.

We did however, get our tree up!  Slightly haphazardly as I tried to direct without being able to see it well, three boys in how to properly space ornaments around the tree.  It is up.  It looks like Christmas.  And i even threw an apple crisp in the oven last night. (Thank God for those jars of apple pie filling we canned a few months ago!)

So, we might not have the best menu yet or the best tree, but I'll settle for being the cutest couple!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just Not the Right Timing

I'm sick.  I rarely get sick and I usually shake it off when I am sick, but this year is a different story.  I got a flu about a month ago, and it keeps coming back.  Still coughing, still a sore throat, still when I push myself I end up running a fever.  My head hurts, sinuses get plugged.

I am just not happy.  I have no extra energy.

It seems that December is a month that requires extra energy.  And I just don't have it.

To top that off, tomorrow I am having minor surgery.  The type that a lingering cold won't hurt, but that will make me even more dependent and sap whatever energy I do have.

I should be decorating the house and doing Christmas baking.  Instead, I am hanging around sleeping.

I feel like a bad mom this year.  My kids "deserve" a Christmas, and honestly, right now, I just wish it would all go away and let me sleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Romantic Interlude

My second son is unusual.  I don't really know how such normal people like ourselves gave birth to to such unusual children!

Yesterday, I told the kids that while they were going to an event, their dad and I were going on a date.  (We ended up not going because I got a fever again... yucky flu keeps coming back!)  #2 giggled and giggled and said I should not say we are going on a date, "Because dating is what young, unmarried, and immature people do".

I laughed and told him that people date because they like each other and what did he want me to say?

He disagreed.  "You shouldn't say a date because you are not immature and silly." (little does he know!)

"So what should I say then?"

He put on his comical serious voice and said, "You should say a romantic interlude!"

"So, ok," I said, " Daddy and and I are going out for dinner and a romantic interlude.  Who knows, we might even kiss and snuggle".  Immediate howls and gagging noises came from the back of the car, followed with, "I feel so sorry for the other people eating dinner!  To have to watch people kissing! Ugh!"

"Ok, out of respect for other diners, on our romantic interlude we may try to restrain ourselves and save the kissing for when we are back home IN FRONT OF THE KIDS!"

more screams of "ew, Mom!"

Ah, being a parent of tweens is so much fun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sitting Alone Watching the Rain

I just did something that I think I regret.  No, not exactly regret - that is too strong a word, but hesitate about perhaps.

How do you ask for something that you want someone to want to do for you?  If you ask, you run the risk that they will say yes only because you ask.  If you don't ask, you run the risk that they will never know that it was wanted.

There is no clear way to say, "well, only if you want to...."  because there is an obligation in some requests sort of built in.  "Ok, if that is what you need, I will do that, of course."

But that is not what I was asking.  I want someone to want to do something, to take the initiative themselves.  It hasn't happened, so now I ask.  And of course, now they will do it....

but there is a emptiness to it - at least I feel that this morning.  An emptiness because I had to ask.  And now I don't know if they really would have ever wanted to or if my request (in a mild way) forced them into saying yes.

It is raining this morning, a cold drizzly rain.  It matches my mood.  Feeling alone.  I can maybe get what I needed, but only by bluntly asking, not because I was seen.  And there is some sadness in that fact.

I wanted to be seen.  I've been feeling invisible in some pain, and I wanted to be seen.  Seen not because I jumped up and down and yelled, but seen because I was loved and noticed.  So I sit here watching the rain drizzling down drinking hot apple juice being quiet. Sad.

I'll only do this for an hour, and then I get up and go teach.  It is an ok place to visit, but not to hang out in.  Right now, I can sit quietly and listen.  To look up to God and be honest about how I feel.  To set it in front of Him with the unanswered questions, disappointments, hopes, and pain.  And then just sit, drinking hot apple juice, watching the rain