Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas-The Day After

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you probably know that the day after Christmas is my very favorite day of the year.  So, in the spirit of that-Happy December 26th!

I hope your Christmas was just what you hoped it would be.

We had a great Christmas.  And it was mostly because I didn't have any major hopes concerning what it would be.  This year, the theme of my Christmas was "The Christmas of flexibility".

In the past, I have been a little dictator-esque when it comes to Christmas.  I love to have my house decorated perfectly, presents in matching paper and big cloth bows, lots of festivities, fun, and of course, appetizers.

The last three years of my life have been all about letting go of what I want, and leaning into what is.

So, lean in I did.  My plans changed all the way up until the last minute.  I got the cheapest Christmas cards I could (and mostly just felt proud I had one.  Even if the picture was of poor quality...)  I bought exactly zero new wrapping paper and just used what I had on hand.  I wrapped all my gifts with packing tape.  Big Dan's gift came in a big box and it looked awesome with two different kinds of paper on it.  I prepared nothing for Christmas morning breakfast.  Emily had a chocolate Santa first thing in the morning.  I did cook breakfast, just later.  No stressing the night before.  Santa got all the kids' stocking stuffers at the Dollar Tree (he LOVES that place), and I made my husband and my brother-in-law fend for themselves for lunch.  Which, of course, was chinese because it was the only thing open!

And guess what?  Christmas was still wonderful!  My children will still have wonderful memories from this Christmas without all the trappings and guilt I've heaped on in years past.  The truth is, none of it matters at all.  That's the whole point.  The whole point God has been imprinting on me over an over.  I'm a slow learner.  It is who I am to want everything to be It is sometimes confusing that God would create us one way only to seemingly spend our whole lives working it out of us. But, I guess what He is working out is the dark parts of who we are.  He is moving us toward the version of ourselves we can't even see.  It's who He's made us to be without all the trash.

The potter's wheel, the refining fire, the winepress, the threshing floor.  None of these are places of comfort or laziness.  I think I have spent lots of time in my life building altars to comfort and safety.  Sometimes those altars look pretty and organized. Wrapped up with big cloth bows.  The truth is, comfort and safety are tyrants.

So, I did my part this Christmas to chip away at the chains.  I loved every single minute of being with my family.  The letting go felt really good.  Maybe next year I'll wrap with duct tape.

Peace and Blessings!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve is here!  Even though I'm in my thirties, and I'm a worn out, emotional mess, there is still something just a little exciting about the anticipation of Christmas morning.  Especially when you have little ones in the house!

The kids are very excited.  We did a little elfing last night and this morning and they were absolutely fantastic!  We've had so much fun the last couple of days.  The slower pace (and the reigning in of the red #40) has led to much sweeter children (and mommy!) all the way around.

One of my very favorite things about Christmas is a good excuse to eat lots of appetizers.  Did you ever see that movie "Mermaids" with Cher and Wynona Ryder?  I love that movie.  Cher plays the mom in the movie, and while I'm nothing like her (long-legged, sassy, um..."friendly") one thing we do have in common is our love for the appetizer.  Like her, I could easily make my family eat appetizers for every meal.  My kids would probably love it.  Big Dan prefers grown man food.

I've been thinking about some of my favorites.  They are all easy things I put out whenever we have Christmas guests.

Hot Pepper Jelly with Cream Cheese
I got this picture from Deep South Dish, but you can find a million pictures of this.  As I look at this picture, I realize it doesn't look all that appetizing.  But, it is ah-mazing.  I love that they have paired it with a good old fashioned Ritz cracker!  I like it on anything and it is always gone in a big hurry.

Rosemary Cashews

I have Katy to thank for this one.  It's new to me this year, but man oh man, they are DELICIOUS! The ones she made were full of rosemary flavor (one of my faves) with an added little kick.  Addictive. Definitely worth making and just keeping on hand.  They make a great little mason jar gift, too.

Cocktail Wieners
I'm so very mature that I don't struggle at all with writing the word wiener in a post. Also because I'm mature, when I went to to look up how to spell it, I definitely didn't push the little button to hear the automated lady say it.  I'm genteel and dignified.  Which is why I love these so much. These are kind of a redneck dish, but man oh man do I appreciate them.  The recipe I use has grape jelly in it which makes it even more redneck and delicious!! People may act like they are too high brow for the cocktail wiener, but you'll soon find them sneaking by the crockpot toothpick in hand!

Sausage Balls

The old stand-by.  Look, I realize I'm not getting invited to any foodie conventions with any of these recipes.  And that's fine by me, because they probably don't have any cocktail wieners or sausage balls at a foodie convention.  How could that be any fun?? This is another dish that someone might pretend they are too good for, but check their purse on the way out the door.  I'll bet it'll be filled with sausage balls.  

I'm hoping I get to eat each one of these things sometime in the next couple of weeks. If I don't, well, my kids should get ready!  It's appetizers for dinner!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Let the Christmas-ing Commence!

I am officially on Christmas break!!  Woo and Hoo!!!

Y'all know how much I love my kiddos-always-but I'm just plain old worn out.  This semester has seen me going 6, sometimes 7 days a week, and almost everything I've been working on has required me to be a major extrovert for the majority of the time.  Me? An extrovert for 6 straight days?  Thanks but no thanks!!

In case I haven't mentioned it, I commend every teacher everywhere.  Even the slightly shady ones.  Teaching is a command performance day after day.  If you think kids (especially little ones) are going to let you get away with coasting, you can forget it! They will watch you like a hawk.  And call you out.  Usually in front of their parents.

So, I haven't been able to fully engage with Christmas time around the homestead just yet.  I needed to close a few other file drawers.  Grad school drawer-closed. And locked! Preschool drawer-closed.  Home drawer-OPEN for business!!

We started our Christmas-ing a couple nights ago when I forced my children to listen to chapter one of my favorite Christmas book:

I have loved this book so much since the first time I read it in fourth grade.  Drew is pretty into it even though he doesn't love reading a chapter book (sad face) but Emily declared the book is too long and she decided to watch Letter Factory instead.  I refuse to give up hope that my kids will be book lovers. Wonder how many of my favorites they'll have  get to enjoy??

Today we followed up with decorating a gingerbread house.  I got a special pre-fab edition that pretty much just requires slapping on some icing and putting on the candies.  Pre-fab is perfect for my current stage of life.  Once upon a time I built an Eiffel Tower out of gingerbread for my sister's bridesmaid luncheon.  I laugh at that self who thought she was so busy!

The gingerbread pre-fab home decorating consisted largely of Emily licking icing and eating decorations (she is so her mother's child...) and of Drew telling Emily to stop eating the decorations and acting as the top quality control director (also...his mother's child...)  It was a little intense and I had to keep reminding them to HAVE FUN, for pity's sake.  But, it turned out pretty spectacular.

Do you see the little star there?  That's Drew's doorknob.  It's my favorite part of the whole thing.

I'm looking forward to some more Christmas fun.  I can't believe Christmas will be here in FOUR days.

That means it's only five days until my favorite day of the year! The day AFTER Christmas.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give! Him! Six!

Disclaimer: It feels wrong to move right along to posting about birthdays and parties when the long line of funerals is just beginning in CT.  I'm not sure what else to do, though.  So, I'm moving along with stories here, but my heart is still with Friday.  Praying for the whole town of Newtown today.

This guy is SIX.  Six years old.  I'm flabbergasted.  In the blink of an eye he went from three years old to six.  I could not be more proud of the young man he is.  I post plenty of antics here, so bear with me while I brag.  Again.  Drew is a kind, compassionate and very conscientious boy.  And while he is introverted, he has a heart to be a good friend to others.  His heart is often heavy because he is a feeler.  He is learning how to manage his feelings.  He works VERY hard at school and is an A student!  He loves to read and is very excited he gets to participate in the AR reading program at his school. (Nobody tell him his mother pretty much despises the AR program!!  She's a snob anyway!) He is a great helper in his classroom and is a HUGE help to me at home.  Emily could not have a better big brother.

His tender heart makes him ripe for growing spiritually.  He loves church and he loves to have discussions about God.  Like all of us, he has had a hard time reconciling Grammy's death with the goodness of God.  I pray for his faith everyday, that it would grow and he would learn to see God's love in all areas of his life.

To celebrate all this greatness, we had a football birthday party at our house on Saturday.  He decided he wanted to have a party at home because he likes it when I put up decorations! Ha! THANK GOODNESS the rain held off.  There were 19 kids here and they had total blast!  Drew is so blessed to have very sweet kids in his class.  The boys played football for a long time while the girls played in the playroom.  We made pennant flags and all the kids (girls and boys) loved doing this.

As always, I was more stressed than you should be about a child's birthday party!  And I got exactly zero pictures.  Well, except for one picture of the fabulous cookies Aunt Katy made:

It is so handy to be related to the cookie lady!!  (THANK YOU KATY!)

I wish I had a picture of how clean my house was.  And you all know it wasn't me who made that happen!  Kristin was here and she worked her "Hints from Heloise" magic and the place has never looked better.  It just confirmed what we all know-I need a maid! =)

Drew had a blast.  And as always, a birthday weekend always includes lots of cousin time!  He has cried twice this week because he is missing Weston!  Drew got lots of really cool presents for his birthday, including some nerf guns.  The boys and Big Dan had a huge nerf fight on Sunday.  I have spent the last week rescuing nerf darts from various "high places".  Here's hoping Santa brings some extra darts!

As the grand finale to birthday weekend, Drew and Big Dan went to see the Titans play for Monday Night Football.  Any given Monday night you will find Drew and Big Dan sitting on the family room floor in front of the TV watching the game.  On commercials you will find them practicing passing and catching.  You will find me hoping they don't throw a football through the glass door! So, for them to BE at an actual game was one of those forever memories.

Currently, Drew has a party hangover like nothing you've ever seen!  Thankfully, his Christmas break has arrived.  If I had my way, I'd make him nap from now until Christmas morning.  He does not support that idea!

So proud of my boy.  It is the epitome of bittersweet to watch him grow up.  And this week especially, I'm thankful for every single moment I get to spend with him.  Even when he's declaring me the meanest mom ever!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Wish...

I wish I had never heard of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I wish teachers in Newtown, Connecticut were going about their pre-break business.  I wish they were taking down Christmas decor, and sending home projects, and day dreaming about a few days when they didn't have to ties shoes and wipe noses.

I wish students were drinking hot chocolate, having cookies, wearing their pajamas and watching "Polar Express"

I wish Sandy Hook Elementary were just another run of the mill elementary school full of hard working teachers.

I wish.

I wish there were not parents with empty arms and emptier hearts tonight.  I wish there were not families of teachers weeping.  I wish the teachers were not afraid.

I wish there had not been a security vehicle and security officer in front of my own child's elementary school today.  I wish I could go on believing that nothing like this could ever happen here.

I wish the world was not so dark.  I wish I could go back to the days of believing every day coming could only be better than the one before. I wish my heart had any idea what to do with all the sadness.

I wish I knew for sure that my Mom was assigned to care for those new little souls in heaven.  There is surely no one else more fit for the job.

My heart and my soul are overwhelmed with grief.  I hold tight to the One who sees.  I hold tight to the One who is, without doubt, weeping over the darkness here, too.  I hold tight to the one who has watched over humanity since its beginning and has seen worse. Much worse.  I hold tight to the One who looks past the darkness and extends His loving-kindness towards us.

I hold tight to Emmanuel. God with us. Please, God, be with us.

I cannot fathom how the parents and others affected by this tragedy will start to put one foot in front of the other. I am praying for them today and everyday they are separated from those they love.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It Takes A Village

*Disclaimer: If you are reading my blog for the first time, you have to promise you won't get offended. Humor and sarcasm are my coping mechanisms, but I mean no harm in ANYTHING I say.  Whoever you are, I like you and so appreciate everything you do.  So, read at your own risk!!

And here begins the longest, largest thank you note I've ever written:

On Saturday I finished my Master's degree.  I know people do this virtually all the time.  But I feel very proud.  The year and a half I spent in graduate school were not the kindest years I've had.  I almost quit. Twice. But I didn't.

The ONLY reason I finished is because of the amazing people who came alongside me and pushed me through.  The list is long.  My village is big.  So, settle in.

First, the very biggest thanks goes to my family.  Big Dan and the kids have sacrificed and given so much as I have spent so many Saturdays away.  I have spent afternoons glued to my computer finishing homework and have worked late into the night, neglecting dishes, laundry and, well, let's face it, dinner.  My kids have been shuffled and schlepped from one end of town to the other.  I have told them to their face that I know it has been hard.  They are my troopers.  My sidekicks.  I just hope their strongest memories are not of me saying, "SHHHHH!  I'm trying to write a paper!"

My sisters and my brother.  Oh, my siblings.  This would not have happened without them, and that is not an exaggeration.  All have listened to me whine more than any human should ever have to, they have cheered me on, and commiserated with me.  My sister Katy, literally became an extension of me.  She picked up the slack I left behind, when she has more than enough on her own plate. She cared for my kids like they are her own. And, let's face it, they like her better anyway! (As a side note I should mention that her husband, Jon, was pursuing a Master's at the very same time as me.  For as much as she's put up with, she should be awarded her own graduate degree).

To all my people at St. Bs.  You have been my cleft in the rock.  Thank you for standing beside me, supporting me, and caring for my kids.  Thank you for all the grace you've thrown my way when I've been a less than stellar teacher.  Thank you for praying for every paper, every presentation and every stinkin' Praxis exam.

To my cohort-TMA 46.  The finest group of people to ever grace the MAT program!!  I feel so blessed to have walked this journey with you.  I've said it many times-I would LOVE for my children to have each of you for a teacher.  I admire the courage and integrity with which you walk out your lives.  Children in our communities are blessed to have you coming into such a demanding profession.  I CAN'T WAIT to hear all of your stories!!

To my church family at TVC, particularly the Children's Ministry.  Thank you for being home.  Thank you for loving my children so well.  I'm happy to have finally found my place.

To all of my friends who are still my friends even though I've been crappy!!!!!!!  For all the texts and emails letting me know you're still on my side-you have no idea how much I love and appreciate each of you.

The past two and a half years have made me a big believer in the village.  I did not come around easily. I'm prideful and stubborn, and like to believe I can do it all myself.  I can't. I still spend some days mad about that fact.  But, being in the place of need, which has been at times miserably uncomfortable, has led me to the deepest community I have had in a long time.  And that, friends, is a post for another day!

So, to all of you who have walked this path with me.  Thank you.  It is not, nor will it ever be enough. But know that when I finally get a diploma, I will see all your names on there along with mine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All Done

Remember the list?

Complete coursework: Teaching the Exceptional Learner
*Write one information brief (note to self: figure out what an information brief is...)
*5 online modules/forum entries
*One teaching philosophy paper
*One InTasc reflection (don't ask, I promise you don't want to know)
*Prepare a presentation on students with Emotional Disturbance

6 practicum hours

1 E*portfolio presentation
*Revise any InTasc reflections that need revising
*Prepare a new resume
*Try not to panic

Not one single thing left to do.  Nada. Zip. Zilch.  I am now the proud owner of a Master's Degree.  The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of a comedy routine bordering on a nightmare.  Take for instance the night I had to present my e*portfolio.  For starters, I had no voice at all.  I had a nasty sinus infection that required a trip to the Little Clinic and antibiotics for the first time in six years.  Add to that freaking Nashville traffic.  I was barely to campus on time.  Because I decided to try and look sass (never, ever a good decision when it comes to me) I wore my boots with heels.  It was raining and there were leaves covering the ground.  I have no idea how I avoided falling.  After I ran-walked to the building where I was supposed to be, there was a sign posted there telling me the presentations had been moved.  TERRIFIC. So, me and the sassy boots headed over to the right room, only to discover three people had already presented.  I was a little late, but I mean, three people???

It all ended up just fine, of course.  The good news is I can BS my way through virtually any type of presentation.  I'd rather talk in front of a room full of 1,000 people than small talk with 3 strangers.  I'm sure my neck was all manner of blotchy red awesomeness (if you've known me for a while, you've witnessed this) but I didn't care.  At least I wasn't the one out there listening to my scratchy voice.

I think I'm still in shock that I'm finished.  I opted out of student teaching next semester, so I'm like, done-done.  This time of year is never tame, so I'm not sure when it will soak in.  Probably about the fifth Saturday in a row I don't have to go to school.

SO MANY people were a part of making this happen for me.  Be on the lookout for the world's largest thank you note.  You might be wondering what's next for me.  There is a plan.  But, for now, it's top secret.  I didn't see it coming, but I'm so glad it did.

In the meantime, I'll be stalking Pinterest trying to figure out what to do with the blasted Elf.