Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Christmas

I feel as though after Christmas, I should write something profound. That our family should have some epiphany type moment, the angels should have blasted their trumpets and choirs ring out. We had no such Christmas. It was good. Pleasant. My kids were something to be reckoned with after all the schedule changes, late nights, sugar doses, and gifts gotten. There was nothing pretty about that. Nothing spectacular...in fact it was a bit on the unfortunate side.
Yet, as I began taking down the Christmas ornaments, wrapping up the decor and packing up the Nativity, I did find a similarity between our Christmas and that of Christ's birth. It was not what was planned. Though it was a great, it was not anything beyond the ordinary and in some cases inconvenient.
I love that Christ came this way. That he arrived in everyday chaos and lived it out. That he can in fact relate to daily life, the inconvenience of being human and dealing with humans.
When I did get some quiet moments to try and reflect on the season, this is what I came up with. And though it isn't exactly a spiritual epiphany or mountain top experience, it was a quiet comfort and I believe God knew I needed that this season. To know my Jesus is alive and with me and completely understands the daily routine of life, the unscheduled events and the unfortunate events. He was after all born outside with the animals, nestled for his naps in a feed trough and carted here and there to escape King Herod. That by far exceeds any bad days I've had and that was just his beginnings...
So here's to Christmas, and a God, a Savior and a Baby who loved us enough to come be with us...in the daily human life.
"The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish." John 1:13 Message

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Livin' the dream

In the spirit of the season, in 2006, when Gavin was a baby, Shawn and I decided to create a tradition that would mean something during the Christmas season. In an effort to teach our kids about giving and serving (which Jesus is the example of the Ultimate Gift and Service) we decided we would buy four bottles of sparkling cider each year and give them to people we saw serving, sacrificing and giving to others. We attach a small note, to let them know of our tradition and letting them know they are appreciated and noticed. We try to pick new people each year and they aren't always people who have served us directly, but just people we know are sharing their lives and what they have. I love this tradition and I get very excited each year to pick our people, load up and go out.
Anyway...this year, I was super excited because Gavin is 3 and I thought he would love this. He loves to give and he loves people. Apparently, he doesn't love it as much when you take him away from his trains to go. Or when you make him go potty before we load up the van. Or when he can't stay at the people's house and play. Oh the drama.
In an effort to make a long story short, a day that was supposed to be teaching our son about giving to others was actually spent in the van hearing him whine about how much he doesn't want to (as in a constant high pitched monologue of everything that he was unhappy about...from the music choice to Brayden looking at him.) No joke. The irony was intense, as was my headache. By the end Brayden had joined in and I had begun to feed them M&Ms I had, one by one to try and keep their mouths shut.
Finally, after we finished lunch (another part of the tradition is to go out to eat afterwards and talk about what we did...not that the kids had earned it, but mom and dad sure had) we loaded up the van once more and Gavin pipes up, "Mom, do we have more cider?"
"No Gav, we're all done."
"Oh, but I want to go out with more cider."
I looked at Shawn about ready to explode...WHAT!?! Are you kidding?
Shawn: "Gav, we're all done until next year."
"But daaaad..."
Shawn: "Another magical Christmas moment."
Holly under her breath to Shawn: "Please tell me there will be a day where our kids will look back and think how cool this was and what a fun family tradition it was. Please."
Shawn: "They will."
I think what he didn't say is that we'd probably be dead.
Upon reflection, I guess that might be okay. If at any point my kids get it, then it was worth it. I can think of quite a few things I whined my way through that I am quite thankful for now (yes mom, I do like knowing how to change my sheets and clean a bathroom...still don't like doing it, but I am glad I can). And maybe someday...though it may be years down the road, we will all have a bottle of cider for someone, all happily sing our carols and all be grateful for the opportunity to honor those who inspire us. Until then, I will dream the dream and do my best to live it...until my kids do too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And then God fixed our cars!

I am, what some might refer to as a control freak. Now, I'd like to believe this is getting better as years pass. I have learned to talk to God about things and am working hard to trust Him to deal with them. As with many people, money is one area in which I struggle greatly with the challenge God gives us when He says, "Do not worry about tomorrow."
Money is tight for everyone now days and then you add Christmas and it usually gets tighter. I can tend to be a penny-pincher. Definitely on the frugal side and very definitely on the over dramatic side when expenses start to add up. This month expense after expense was adding up and I was just about to go ballistic. Each time something came up I wanted to shout, "Awww, com'on! For real?" These were not expenses I planned, nor were they the type that got you into a vacation spot with palm trees and ocean breeze.
Anyway...one of these expenses was our van. We had to get new tires for it, which made Shawn and I quite grumpy. Seeing as our van was just 2 months old, used, but according to the dealership, all checked out and supposedly everything that wasn't at least running at 60% or above, was replaced. Well, it turns out our tires were so bad that our whole car and steering wheel were shaking and Les Schwab said two were too dangerous to drive on and the other two weren't looking so hot either. Pretty much, not 60% or above.
Shawn wrote a letter into the dealership, explaining what had happen and why he was disappointed in their salesmanship. He included the receipt from Les Schwab and sent it off asking for reimbursement. We pretty much felt it was most likely an exercise in futility, but also felt better by doing it.
Then after we got the van back, we had to take our little Echo in (which it was about time, since it is over 103,000 miles with only new brakes and tires...I really can't complain too much). But as we drove away, I held Shawn's hand and prayed, "Lord...this really is your money and you can do with it what you like. Thank you for your faithfulness and help us to trust You with what you have given us."
About an hour later the dealership calls and talks to Shawn, in the end, offering to reimburse the tires. About two hours after that, the service people call and tell us the total estimate to fix the Echo. It cost $2 less to fix the Echo than the reimbursement for the tires! No joke! God is so good!! He answered a huge prayer in under 3 hours...how cool!
And this is why serving God is so fun and so exciting! You really never know when a miracle is gonna pop up. I am sure they pop up more frequently than I notice. But maybe part of this miracle is having my eyes opened to his graciousness and the gifts He wants to lavish us with.
It reminds me of how excited I am to give Gavin and Brayden their presents...to watch them open them, to see the light in their eyes, and to know I have pleased them. It is confounding that the God of the universe loves us in this way. That His heart flutters at my excitement over free new tires. That He is happy when I am happy. That He longs to show us just how much He loves us. As though sending His Son, Jesus, wasn't enough, He continues to pour out His love and fixes our cars to boot!
Thank you Father God, for taking such tremendous care of us!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Naptime...whose time is it anyway?

So...Brayden fell asleep while out on errands today. I look in the review and see the head to the side, eyes closed and panic sets in. "No, no, no! Wake up Bray! Brady! Look...I see a garbage truck...LOOK BRAY!" No movement. Nothin'.
I proceed to turn up the music and stretch my hand back to wiggle his foot as best I can. Still...out like a light! SHOOT!
It wouldn't have been that big a deal, if we were going home, but we weren't. We still had to stop at Shawn's school to deliver the gifts Gavin had made for the office staff. I had promised him. As is, I pulled up to the school and I notice tons of cars pulling in and look up to see the reader board alerting me, "Holiday Concert 1:15." I look down at the clock...1:10. Oh sheesh!
So, out we go, waking up Brayden and hoping upon hope, that we can even find daddy. We do. He's busy. We try to deliver some of our gifts without being too much of a nuisance. Invited to the concert, I take the boys thinking maybe it'll wear Brayden down again. It's a no go. After one song and a bike give away, Gavin is doin' the potty dance and Brayden is trying to escape.
Back through the office and to the van. Gavin looks ready to fall on his face, though he is insisting "I no need a night night." Brayden, he looks ready to take on the world. UGH!
So, here I sit in the office, attempting to ignore the thump thump thump of Brayden in the pack and play and an occasional "Maaaaama!" at the other end of the house. I don't want him to be awake. This is not the day I was supposed to have. This time is mine. Mine, mine, mine!
The books say sleep is important to children. It helps them to function and behave better. The reality is, their sleep time helps me to function and behave better. I am not sure what to do, I'm considering earplugs...because if a child is in the other room supposedly napping and no one is around to hear him...he must be napping, right?

Monday, December 14, 2009


We have this amazing Advent book, we bought for our family last year. It's actually called "The Advent Book." It is hardbound, with boardbook pages that have a door on each page, for each day of Advent. Each door opens to reveal a picture and Scripture to tell the Nativity story. The illustrations are BEAUTIFUL! I love it. It is the beginning of a tradition for our family and I cannot wait to hand the book down.

Anyway...Gavin loves to do Advent. (We tried with Brayden, but the minute we lit the candle, he began trying to blow it out and kept blowing all through our reading. Well...we figured by the time we got to day 10, he'd probably hyperventilate and decided next year we'd let him stay up for it.) Gavin, always wants to read ahead and loves to open the doors. Sadly, he's not that into the actual story of Christ's birth.

It's a challenge...the Advent season. We want our children to know it's about Jesus. We want the true meaning of Christmas to be in their hearts and lives. We also want them to have a childhood full of wonder, imagination and tradition. We want them to decorate, enjoy lights and cookies. And as I watch Gavin set up the Nativity with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and Lightening McQueen, I think of what a challenge it is going to be to raise children to be "In the world, but not of the world." I can't convince Gavin that Lightening McQueen needs to go and that the wise men are not for using as "Yuckies" to dump out of the garbage truck. These are holy figures kid!

It's moments like these where I am once again forced to recognize my inadequacies as a mom. I realize I have very little idea what I am doing or how to do it. I am just praying that God will give me wisdom and doing my best to point to Him and that someday, my kids will do the same.
But it's also in these moments, where I look at the baby sitting next to Lightening McQueen and am reminded of what a great Gift Giver we serve. How amazingly big and gracious is our God. Willing to send His Son. Willing to offer His child. Willing to love and love and love some more.

With a God like that leading the way, parenting doesn't seem quite as scary and I am not so worried about Lightening joining the Nativity. Because if God sent His son for my sons, surely he'll help me raise them too and no little red race car will get in the way.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our Shepherd

Here is Gavin in his shepherd's outfit at our Christmas program practice. You have to take pictures then...because you never know if you'll get the real deal come performance time.

The Nativity...Ryan Style

So...here is what happens when you put Gavin in charge of setting up the Nativity scene on the side table. Note: McQueen and Mater up front...the headless angel (which was why we ended up getting him his other plastic Nativity) hiding back behind the shepherd. He apparently took me seriously when I told him Jesus is for everyone. "Mom, Mater and Jesus are friends too!"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The "fit"

Yesterday, we were driving home from Gavin's "Cubbies" program and Gavin announces, "I don't want to go home and take a night night, I want to watch a show and have a snack."
"Gavin, it's way past bedtime. We are going home to go night night."
I hear a mumbled, "No". I choose to ignore it. It grows louder, "NO." Still ignoring. Then I proceed to hear Gavin grunting and twisting and attempting to throw a fit in his car seat. It was hilarious. You'd hear "Argh!" "Ummmph" "Errrr" accompanied by harsh twists and punches to the arm rests. Oh the drama.
I sang along with the Christmas carols, pretending not to hear him, all the while trying so hard to keep from laughing. Why the child thought throwing a fit while sitting in a restraining device was a great plan, I'm not sure...I'll chalk it up to being three. When his dramatics did not produce the desired effect, he proceeded to throw a toy on the ground. And then another. Finally, due to lack of participation on my part Gavin declares,
"Moooom, I'm throwing a fit." At least he was trying to. It was the weakest fit I've ever seen, but the effort was good.
"Yes, I know. And if you continue, you'll be punished when you get home and go straight to bed."
"Hmph." Silence.
"Mom, I'm done. Maybe I'll just have a snack and take a night night, that'd be good?"
Apparently, when desired drama doesn't work we move straight to negotiation.
"Maybe Gavin. We'll ask Dad."
I move straight to passing the buck.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Seasonal stuff

The boys in their Christmas Pajamas I made them. You can't really tell, but Brady's say "Ho! Ho! Ho!" and Gav's say "Jingle Bells." Their pretty fun!
We went for a walk down the block in the cold to see the Goose. There is this little stone goose at a house down the street, of which the owner dresses up for each season. It was fully decked out as a reindeer, brown outfit, red nose, antlers and all. Brayden LOVES to walk out to the goose!

Their happened to be a large county digger parked for the weekend. We took advantage to check it out a bit!

Hide and Seek

Yes, it totally looks like my kids have their noses to the wall...but I promise, they chose to! It's hide and seek Ryan style and they love it. Bray is especially fond of counting, "Un, Oooh, EEEENNNNN" and then running out to seek, muttering "nooo, nooo, nooo" like his mom does when she "looks" for the boys. Gavin loves to hide. He especially likes to hide just where you last hid. It makes it even harder to pretend you don't know where he is.
Bray is getting better at hiding and staying put. He's very quiet and will sit right where you put him, but he is a very big fan of poking his head out to check if anyone is coming. Purpose defeated.
All in all, it's hilarious to play with these two. They love it and that is what matters. I am looking forward to the day they really get into it and stay hidden for awhile. Maybe I can fold a load of laundry while I "look" for them!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The lights

Gavin helped with the decorating this year. Brayden was there...trying to help, but fittingly, we have dubbed him "destructor," and this is mostly what his efforts caused. Here are some pics of our efforts.

Gavin and Dad putting up the outside lights.

Brayden occupied by the tricycle didn't cause too many problems outside.Gavin's job during tree lighting was holding the lights...he did great!
Gavin's first time placing the star on top, (there was some adjusting afterward, but he tried)!


Thanksgiving at the Faraone's...trying to get all the cousins to cooperate...not successful!
My super cute neice ashton and all her hair!
Our traditional preThanksgiving meal with our good friends the Shurtleffs!