Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

As I sit with baby in my lap enjoying the first quiet moment I've had in a holiday season, I'm thinking about all of the things that make Christmas memorable. Things change so much from year to year now, as they never did before. As we look back at the photos from holidays past, we can see time pass before our eyes. As a relative said last night, my husband and I could go up to the snow on Christmas Day, take a great photo, and use it for next year's card. But the kids would change so much, the photo would be outdated. It seems we do not change much from year to year -- a dozen more gray hairs or a few more crow's feet -- but our kids change drastically. They get hair where before they had peach fuzz. They grow taller, leaner, more steady. They get teeth. They get dimples. They get little snotty attitudes that weren't there the year before.

It is so important to cherish each day in their little lives. To savor the small moments as well as the big. The first handmade ornament. The first cookies and milk for Santa. The first Christmas as a family. Because next year, the little boy in my arms won't be a baby anymore. Next year there will be no more gummy smiles. Next year the big boy will teach us about Santa. Next year will be nothing like this one. They don't seem to change too much from one year to the next, but when we look back at this year, whether it be next Christmas or ten Christmas' from now, they will seem so small and young and little, and so very far away from who they are now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Too True

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Book Review: Chill Out, Josey!

Chill Out, Josey! Chill Out, Josey!

Somehow I've gotten on the list of Christian book reviewers, which doesn't really bother me because I love getting free books to review, but it just gets a little difficult when review time comes around. I'm also new to the whole chick/mommy-lit genre (I'm more a Stephen King-type gal), so there's another road block I must get past. But I'm enjoying a whole new category of books that I can read in the tub and relax with, and it's a nice change to read something that doesn't start with "It was a dark and stormy night." (Peanuts excluded, as Charlie Brown is fairly popular around here).

Chill Out, Josey is the second book in the Josey series by author Susan May Warren. From what I gathered, in the first book (Everything's Coming Up Josey), protagonist Josey ran off to Russia to find love and adventure, only to have her childhood sweetheart chase after her and declare his undying love. In book two, Josey and Chase (yes, that's really his name) are living somewhat happily ever after back at home in Minnesota. Except happily ever after has a different definition for Chase than it does for Josey. She dreams of suburban bliss, with two little kids in the backyard of their house on the lake (FYI, Josey, it ain't always bliss...). Chase dreams of saving the world, of living his life with purpose. Josey compromises for the sake of her marriage, and before she knows it, they are settling down in Moscow. To complicate matters, she finds out she's pregnant days before their big move. It's silly, it's fun, and it's not deep, but tub reads never are.

It's interesting to read about Josey's struggles setting up their home in Moscow. Warren herself spent years in Khabarovsk, Far East Russia as a missionary for SEND International. Though she never gave birth in Russia, she spent two pregnancies there, and I'm sure many of Josey's triumphs were those of Warren's as well.

The hardest time I'm having with these small-press releases is the amount of errors that run the length of the story. (To capitalize, or not to capitalize the Cold War. You decide.) It seems they never make it past a final editor, and as a result, often have loose ends floating around the main story that never quite get resolved (not really a problem in this book) or just seem as if they should go through one last revision. I wouldn't place all the blame on the authors (though they probably should know better, but you know us writers...), I would simply chalk it up to a lack of staffing/funding at the publishing company. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad enough to detract from the book, it's just that I usually expect a certain level of, well, dare I say perfection, from a published work. A blog, for that matter, you never know what you're going to get...

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Sleeping with my eyes open

I am so tired lately I don't know how I'm managing to type sentences that are spelled correctly. My days are filled with unpacking, dressing tiny streakers, making PB and J, letting the dogs in and out of the house, and doing enough laundry to fill a Suburban. Too bad we're now on a water meter...

How did those ladies of the 1950's do it? They wore neatly pressed dresses and high heels, played bridge while their kids ran around the yard, and knew how to make Jello molds for every season of the year. Sure, they didn't (couldn't) hold down jobs, write blogs, or even drive their kids to school, but they had to be busy, too, right? Where did they have the time to iron? In high heels? I haven't even touched my iron (except to unpack it) in the last three years. And my hands are so dry from doing dishes night and day that I'd run any pair of pantyhose I'd try to put on. I just wonder sometimes how they looked so put together. Today we seem to run into each other in the store with crazed looks in our eyes, frantically pulling stuff from shelves and dumping it into our carts while we hold our toddlers by the collar and pray they don't start screaming.

Because those elderly women who did it all in the 50's will give us the look of death.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Since my days are filled with unpacking and I haven't been able to scrounge enough time up to write a decent post, I am publishing my article from this month's Growing Up Chico magazine...

I am counting the days until Christmas. This will be the first year my son, now three, will be old enough to be intoxicated by the sheer magic of the season. Sure, we’ve decorated the house to the hilt ever since he’s been born, but this will be the first year there’ll be more to the tree than just “Don’t touch that!”

The holidays are the time when we unpack our own childhood. We revisit the memories we made as children, remembering holiday traditions long past that still warm our hearts. Our first snowball fight. Roasting marshmallows in the fireplace. The smell of a steaming holiday supper, which for me meant mountains of meatballs piled atop an enormous platter of pasta. I swear I can still smell the garlic. Whether we’re pulling out the ornaments or unpacking the menorah, we’re hoping to give our children the same joy we experienced so many years ago. We’re hoping to make memories that will linger in their hearts forever. And we’re hoping, in a very small, quiet way in the corner of our hearts, to bring back the joy for ourselves.

For we’ve been waiting for this for years, it seems. I know that I spent too many newly-married holidays empty with expectation, wondering exactly what it was I needed to make Christmas feel complete. It wasn’t the giving, the receiving, or even the decorating of my first home that warmed my heart. It was the first time I saw my son, dressed in red velvet with white fur trim, touch the tip of his finger to the flickering lights on the Christmas tree. I watched the smile spread across his little face, and as I did, I felt my heart begin to melt.

It is no longer about fighting for time off from work, fighting with my husband about whose parents we’ll eat Christmas Eve dinner with, or fighting with the crowds at the mall. It has once again become about baking as many cookies as will fit in the oven, drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire, writing letters to Santa in green and red crayon. It is about making presents for Daddy out of glue and acorns and glitter. About elves, reindeer, and the magic hope for snow, no matter how far away from the North Pole we live.

That is the best part of having children, I’m finding out. They bring back the fun, the delight, the joy in the parts of our lives we thought were empty. They make us remember what is was like to wait up all night for Santa, to give a gift we made with our own hands, to be live in the moment and be happy with all that we have.

They bring us back to ourselves.