Monday, December 22, 2014

Baby Jesus, Saint Nick, and Mr. Jinx {the elf}

Before I'm even awake good I hear his little feet jump from the ladder on his bed, down to the floor, landing with a thump.
The bedroom door opens and I hear the pat-pat-pat of his feet as he runs through the house.


"Mom? I can't find the Elf!"

This is our angel; one morning Mr Jinx was on this high shelf hugging her.

"Ummmm," I mumble from the far side of the bed.
His little voice is so excited and I know he has been this way every morning since Thanksgiving.

I pat the empty space in the bed beside me and say, "come cuddle with me, Buddy;" he ignores me.

At six years old, he's still a Mama's boy and has lots of anxiety over being left at school, Sunday School, and just about anywhere else.  He'd rather go with me wherever I'm going -- even Walmart--but he doesn't want just anyone to know these things.
He's small for his age and is often mistaken for a preschooler.
Most of the time, there's a ton of sweetness packed into that little body.  I just want to pick him up and squeeze him tight, kiss him, and keep him from getting any bigger.

Sunday morning I did that {well, except for the keeping him from getting bigger part}.
He climbed in my lap to tell me a secret as we sat in the church pew before worship began.  His eyes twinkled with mischief as he came to whisper to me, "Daddy's code to his new phone is XXXX!"
He was just so sweet and his dimples too delicious to not scoop him up for a kiss.  He didn't even protest, though there were tons of people around to see.

And I know these moments are fleeting; even as I live them they are bittersweet because I know they are numbered.  And selfishly, I don't want them to end.
I want my kids to stay this young, this sweet, this innocent.

That's why I choose to do Santa and the Elf on the Shelf with them. They know the real reason we celebrate Christmas is Jesus, but they also enjoy these other celebrations leading up to Christmas day.

There's been a lot of controversy lately, especially in cyber space, about "lying" to your kids when you include Santa in your Christmas celebration.
There's even this meme circulating Facebook:

And while it did provide me a chuckle, I realize that there are lots of different ways people use the Elf on the Shelf and Santa as well as lots of misconceptions about how they are used by those who choose not to use them.

Now, this blog isn't my way of saying "this is the proper way to do it," or me being judgey about what someone else chooses for their family's Christmas traditions. I'm simply stating how we do things here and sharing my recent observations.  I realize that some people will still think that, but there's my disclaimer {wink, wink}.  Just check out this poor lady's blog, the comments especially, where she gets reamed for misleading other Christians!

I agree with her on lots of points, but let me start by saying that we don't do the "guilted" good behavior in our house.  By that I mean, I want my kids to be "good" {as good as kids can be when they're normal} for the sake of being good, not because they feel their Christmas gifts are threatened if they don't.  And we don't make our elf, "Mr. Jinx," out to be some creepy I'm-watching-you-and-reporting-back-to-Santa toy.  {For similar content see this.}

In the aforementioned blog, the author does a great job of addressing some of the most common objections to Santa: balancing secular Christmas with a Spiritual Christmas; is it lying or supporting an unhealthy view of reality?; Santa promotes rewards for good works. I think one of the most important points she makes is that EVERY SINGLE HOLIDAY  and occasion {not just Christmas} in this country are completely over-commercialized and exploited in the name of making a buck.  
I am fully aware of the charge we have as Christians to be IN the world but not OF the world. BUT, I also know that it's not my job to tell other people's children the truth about Santa! When you have kids and you choose not to do Santa with them, there is no guarantee that they will keep the "secret" to themselves.

Buddy wrote a letter to Mr. Jinx...

As with everything in life, it's a balance.

A few years ago, much earlier than I had planned, I had "the Santa talk" with my daughter, who was 7 at the time.  She had become quite bold in her Christmas requests and was really portraying an attitude of entitlement.  I didn't want to lie to her with her some "Mommy and Daddy have to pay Santa for all the toys." At the time, Buddy was still quite young (3, if I'm remembering which year this happened) and we were a little concerned she might ruin it for him.  So I slipped her a letter under her pillow one night addressed to "The Keeper of the Magic" {an idea I stumbled across online for older kids with younger siblings who still believe.} The idea that she helped keep the magic of Christmas alive for him, has worked wonderfully for us.

My son, even though now only 6, is quite astute and asks TONS of questions.  I sense the day when he asks me outright, "is Santa real?" is not far off.  And when he does, I will not lie to him.  Already, when he asks me a question that I find hard to answer without an untruth, I turn the question around on him: "well, Buddy; what do you think?" Last week, for example, we saw an older gentleman in Walmart who looked remarkably like Santa and was dressed like him from head to foot.  He greeted every child he encountered on his trip through the store and my daughter even took a picture with him.  Buddy, on the other hand, was quite skeptical; he shrunk back against me and just watched.  After the picture taking, he asked me if that was the real Santa.  Since we were in a public place, the best thing for me to say was "well, what do you think?"  

For all the people who say Santa is a lie, I would remind them that life is full of teachable moments.  That there was a REAL man named Saint Nicholas. Here is just one source on the subject, but of course Google will afford you many more hits when you search "The Real Saint Nick." And this is where I would also ask, "so what if he wasn't real?" Isn't there still something from the legend we could use to teach our kids that it is more "blessed to give than to receive?"

I will not post all of the letters my kids have received from our elf, Mr. Jinx, but I will say this: Mr. Jinx takes every opportunity in our house to remind the kids to be kind and loving to each other.  He reminds them of the real reason we celebrate Christmas and why Christmas wouldn't be the same without Christ. Here is one excerpt:

Always remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas:
God sent the BEST gift to us in the form of His son, the baby Jesus.  One way we can show our love for others is by remembering his sacrifice and giving gifts to others this time of year.  Also important to remember, the size or cost of the present is of little importance compared to the value and love behind it.  Sometimes the best gift is just a hug or a simple act that shows you are thinking about the other person.

 He has also "intervened" when the kids have been squabbling over something: reminding Buddy that he is the little one and that Sweetpea is his big sister, who generally looks out for him.  In the same letter, he reminded Sweatpea that part of growing up is learning to do things for oneself and that Buddy would learn more from his mistakes and hardships than he would if she did everything for him or corrected his every move.

I didn't expect it to work at first, but I suppose it's similar to how kids tend to listen to a teacher better than a parent sometimes. Hearing the same things from someone else sometimes makes them "stick."

I wanted to be sure when we incorporated an elf into our holidays here, that it fit into what, and why, we already celebrate and didn't trump anything we already did.  While I'm sure some people DO use an elf on the shelf to enforce good behavior, I don't think MOST use them that way.
After we started our elf adventure, I found this: it might be helpful for someone else considering an elf in their home.

I think the bottom line is this: would it be ideal if our secular society ONLY celebrated the true meaning of Christmas - Christ? Of course! 
Do I wish that that were the case? Yes, again!
But this is reality and we live in a society that is, unfortunately, moving further and further away from God and the true meaning of Christmas.  As for me and my family, we will not let that happen! I consider it my job to teach my kids how to live as a citizen of this world, while having an eternal home in Heaven.
I may not do the best job 100% of the time, but having that goal and striving for it is better than not trying at all.

As I said earlier, I didn't write this to critique anyone else's interpretation of Jesus, Santa, and an elf in their Christmas.  I wrote it to say that this is meant to be a joyful time of year; let's stop judging each other for how we celebrate that joy.  After all, how can we be joyful and enjoy our Christmas while pointing fingers at someone else's choices for theirs?

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Yes, I know I've been conspicuously absent from this space for some time.  I've missed writing.
There are a lot of blanks to fill in, and I certainly have enough material to do so, but not this week.  I've learned that writing can be therapeutic for me, but it can also be obligatory. So when my hubby left for an 8 day trip on November 30th, I knew I had to drop anything not completely necessary while he was gone. I waited to be as present as possible for my kids in the midst of an already busy time.  Even since his return, things have been crazy and I wanted to be IN the moments we were living rather than taking pictures {although I still took plenty}, or jotting down notes for a blog post. 
More things coming soon, so stay tuned! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Humbled & Grateful}

Last night when I realized I couldn't "get myself together" over the injustice that is public school first grade homework, I ran away to my room to fold laundry.

I folded and cried and wiped my eyes for what seemed like an hour but probably wasn't.

Then I realized I had makeup all over my face so I had to fix that.  When I pulled the hot washcloth off my face, I looked into the mirror and flashed back to see my mother's swollen red eyes looking back at me.

I think about all the times she cried for her three children and all the times I probably don't even know about.  As mothers we cry when our babies are hurt and we can't fix it; we cry when our kids are faced with tough choices that we can't make for them; we cry when they disappoint us; most of all, we cry because in all situations we just love them so much and want only the best for them.

There is a lot of humbling that comes with becoming a mother and a lot of realizing that we never valued {and never can value} our mothers enough.

This morning's results of last night's uglier-than-ugly cry are not good.  My eyes are swollen and  they actually hurt.
Once again I had to hear my son tearfully protest from the back-seat, "Mommy, I don't want to go to school."
But I am thankful for all the ways, just this morning, I have been reminded of my blessings.

We listen to HIS Radio in the car most mornings and bless them, they saved me from self this morning.  They are doing a project called The Blessings Project and reading excerpts of these "needs" on the air.  I was instantly humbled and grateful to remember all that I have in comparison to the lack that many have.

And then I got home to lots of wonderful encouragement through Facebook from other moms who are struggling {and seeing their kids struggle} with ridiculous Common Core homework and classwork at school. 

One of them even sent this, which was great and brought laughter to me so I hope it will for you too!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Everyday a New Day}

As I log on to this site tonight, I can't help but laugh a little.

I started this post last Friday, November 14.  I only got as far as the title although I knew exactly what I wanted to say.
The funny part is it applies so much more today than whatever happened on Thursday or Friday.

I am thankful that the things we think might kill us, usually actually don't. 

Y'all, I completely lost my mind over my son's CLASSWORK tonight. 
Yes, you read that right - classwork. 

My son wouldn't do it at school yesterday so his teacher sent it home to be completed here. On top of that, he is supposed to read every night {there is a log to sign}, has a math worksheet once a week, and spelling journal - 3 separate spelling activities a week- to be turned in on Friday. We spend about 4 to 5 hours a week on homework, not including reading, and NOT including this extra classwork tonight.

His classwork assignment? Expository writing.
  Three pages total: top page, FINAL draft of 5 sentence expository piece on spiders. Second page: "rough draft" page, broken down into "topic sentence," "fact 1," "fact 2," "fact 3," and "conclusion sentence." Third page in packet: Three columned list designed {I think} to brainstorm the "facts" about spiders. The top of the page says "spiders," column 1 says "have" {as in, "spiders have..."}, 2nd column says "can...," and 3rd column says "are...".

We spent 1 hour and 45 minutes on this tonight and didn't get any other homework done including reading.
He cried. 

I cried {I look like someone beat me up :-)} and I wrote his teacher a very heated email.

I'm thinking she probably hates me right about now {although I was sure to say my frustration was not personal but about the work being forced 
on these kids}.  
My son is smart.
He is top of his class in math (97th percentile) and the highest reading level in his class along with 2 other students (20 total in the class). 

He likes spiders and thinks they're interesting.
He's NOT interested in writing and as far as I'm concerned, that makes him a normal 6 year old boy.

That's right; he's 6 and in the first grade.

Today, I am thankful for starting fresh and grace and praying the teacher shows me some!

Monday, November 10, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Little Interruptions}

If I listed for you all the interruptions I've had to accommodate this past week, we could be here all day.
The reason I am thankful for them is simple: they cause you to stop and check yourself.

Kids seems to always get sick on a day I have an event planned.  You know, an out of the ordinary event; a thing I need to attend; and look professional. 
It's when I'm already pressed for time or trying to do too much in too little time that someone gets sick.

If it's Buddy, getting sick {spiking a fever, even a low one; getting chills, a nasty cough} means a visit to the Doctor.  He has asthma and has ended up in the hospital before when he got so sick that breathing treatments weren't helping him.

It was one of the scariest things for me as his Mom, because he was only 2 or 3 and so tiny.  Watching a tiny one struggle to breathe is always scary but when it's your own child and you can't help him, I think it's worse.

So we've learned not to mess around with him and illness that could aggravate his asthma.  We travel with his nebulizer now - no exceptions - even day trips.  We do maintenance treatments everyday during the school year. And we go to the doctor with almost every sniffle for him, just to be sure his lungs are clear and that there isn't any other kind of infection going on.

Anyway, back to my original point: I've learned that these unexpected "ain't nobody got time for this" interruptions are usually a wake up call.
A call to slow down and pay attention.

God's way of saying:
 "...slow down..."
"'re missing it..."
"'s the little things..."
"...find joy in the everyday happenings..."

I also think He's teaching us to see the good in all things.

That's something that I'm hoping {and trying} to teach my kids too - 

always find the good.

Friday, November 7, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {Friends for Life}

I'm certainly not the only one thankful for my friends and I know that. 
I've learned a lot about friends, and about people in general, as I get older.

Being an introvert, I've never been the type to have a ton of girlfriends.  I just relate better one on one or maybe in a group of three including myself.

Growing up, I had friends {and boyfriends} that were both older and younger than me, as well as some the same age. As I got older though, I found myself relating better to those a year or two older than me, especially when it came to boys and dating.

In some ways I was mature for my age and that could make a difference.  Then of course, there's the belief that girls mature faster than boys and that may account for the dating difference.

As I've gotten older, I've realized a few things about friends and ages.  Life experience - specifically, circumstances and hardships and how one reacts to them - determine a person's maturity. Age really has no bearing at all on a person's maturity.  I have younger friends with way more life experience than me.  Those who had to grow up fast due to hardship or unexpected loss.  I also have older friends who chose a different path in life and therefore have not experienced all the same things that I have.

What it boils down to, really, is that age is just a number.

How we live our lives, {maturely - or not} is what attracts us to our friends and likewise them to us.
If you'd told me in High School that today two of my best friends would be 10 years older and 8 years younger than me, I would've thought you were crazy.

What's even crazier is that I've known one 
of them since I was 14 and she was 24, and the other since I was 12 and she was 4! 

It really is a small world and it pays to make connections and remember them.
You never know when someone who was just an acquaintance "way back when," could become your closest buddy in the "here and now."

I'm thankful for that!

What {or who} are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 3, 2014

30 Days of Thanks {for lazy days and more...}

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for lazy Sunday afternoons!
In truth, most of them are not so "lazy,"but I call them that because we make an effort to just come home after church and BE together as a family.
The kids might go play with the neighbor kids, but one or both of us is outside at the same time so we can keep an eye out.
This week, hubby and I cleaned up the garage together and I took down the strictly Halloween decorations {I left up some of the plainer pumpkins and general Fall stuff for a little longer}.

Although we got a lot done, it was a pretty laid back day. That extra hour of sleep didn't hurt either - haha!

I'm thankful for this time of year - Fall is my favorite!
I love taking pictures of all the trees because they can literally change in the course of 1 day.
I did just realize, though, that I haven't taken many pictures over the last two days so this post will contain one lone photo.

I'm also really thankful for Forgiveness - God's forgiveness specifically.

This song is a great one:

Well, the past is playing with my head
And failure knocks me down again
I’m reminded of the wrong
That I have said and done
And that devil just won't let me forget

In this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am

I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
'Cause I’m forgiven

My mistakes are running through my mind
And I’ll relive my days in the middle of the night
When I struggle with my pain, wrestle with my pride.
Sometimes I feel alone and I cry.

And in this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am

Well, I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
'Cause I’m forgiven

When I don't fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere
When I don’t measure up to much in this life
Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of Christ

'Cause I’m forgiven
Well, I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
'Cause I’m forgiven.

What are you most thankful for today?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

30 Days of Thanks: Day 1 {it's the little things}

Call me crazy {haha}, but I do think that writing everyday, or at the least the attempt to, has been good for me.

I'm not sure I will be here every single day in the month of November, but I would like to do a gratitude  journal.  
Some people do it on Facebook, but I think I prefer my space here.
Please feel free to join me and post links to your posts in my comments below.

  • Unexpected quiet moments hours {score!} alone at home
  • Friends who continue to give me hugs even though I'm not much of a hugger {I sort of stink at it because it makes me a little uncomfortable}
  • Kids who miss me when I'm only gone a few hours
  • An extra hour of sleep!
  • the warmth of home on a cold day
  • leftovers {no cooking for me}!
  • kids who love to read
  • friends: new ones and close ones

31 Days: Day 31 {Better Late than Never}

If you're like me and you have kids, yesterday was pretty crazy in your house!
So here's my day 31 post a day late.
I don't often post pictures of my kids, but I did include one here of them dressed up and ready to trick or treat.

Halloween is not a huge deal in our house/neighborhood, but the kids do love to dress up and go beg for candy Trick or Treat in the neighborhood.

We have less than 50 houses in our 'hood, so with over half not participating (scrooges as my hubby said last night), our kids are able to walk the entire subdivision before we get too many complaints about sore feet and such.

It seemed there were less trick or treaters in general this year, because our bowl was still quite full when we returned.  I left it out on the front porch til after 9pm and no one else came by. 

Too bad we have so many Reese's Cups leftover {sarcasm}!

My Dorothy and My Hulk

Hope y'all all had a safe and fun Halloween, with no "candy hangovers!"