Saturday, December 19, 2015

The long expectation

The countdown is on! Several times a day, the kids are trying to figure out how many days 'til Christmas, how many days 'til "our" Christmas, how many days 'til daddy's birthday... Thankfully, the trusty Lego advent calendar helps them to figure it out on the their own, so they're not always asking me. But either way, it's like having a live, ticking time bomb--a constant reminder of just how little time I have left to get our Christmas act together!

This week at MOPS we discussed "finding rest at Christmas." One of the things we talked about was areas that we can cut back on to make Christmas more restful. Our family has already simplified our celebration a bit this year, simply out of necessity. We hung less lights, haven't put up ALL the decorations, bought fewer gifts, and only made two small batches of cookies for Jon's work party.

Because Dutch Spritz Cookies always taste better when you whip them up naked.
Can you still call it a Christmas cook when it's gluten/sugar free and contains flaxseed?
I had visions of bundling the whole family up and trekking out to a tree farm, armed with steaming hot chocolate and holiday cheer, to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. Instead, we settled for stopping by a nearby tree lot on a drizzly afternoon, nabbing the first tree that caught our eye, yelling at the kids to stop running around the tree rows, and then me dragging everyone back to the car so Daddy could finish the transaction in peace--stuffing them all with Swedish Fish and holiday radio in the meantime.

Our kids missed the "we found the perfect tree picture" because they were too busy chasing each other.

Also, she created her own holiday necklace out of old garland.
And I've been trying to be more intentional about taking a break in the evenings--like working on a Christmas puzzle or reading a book--after the kids are in bed. Sometimes I feel guilty for doing something "unproductive" but being purposeful in finding rest has its long term benefits, not the least is a more relaxed mama!

Don't be misled by this picture. I did 97% of this puzzle.

The kind of evening where you actually gasp when you walk out to your car.
All that to say, things at our house aren't exactly any slower or quieter this year, that would be near impossible with 4 kids 7 and under. That would be near impossible with just one child, namely, the 2-year-old. But we are closing out 2015 with a bang--a bang that is NO MORE DIAPERS!!

Yeah, you heard that right. For the first time in just over 7 years, the whole family wears underwear! I'm still in shock. I'm also a little sad that I won't have an excuse to make random Target runs ... but "toothpaste" has quickly replaced "diapers" in the category of "things we're always running out of." I have no idea why ...

 Thankfully, our kids are still young enough that we don't have to deal with holiday concerts and activities yet. Jude and Daddy built a gingerbread house in school on Friday (that Joci promptly redecorated...)

This is the "after" photo of the gingerbread house--complete with stool pushed over to the counter.
That same afternoon, Julia's preschool class sang some Christmas songs and enjoyed a surprise visit from Jolly Old Saint Nicholas himself. Poor girl, she was at the end of the line waiting to greet Santa and I couldn't see her through the throngs of parents snapping photos. So I had no idea she was dealing with the self-inflicted turmoil of waiting to sit on a stranger's lap.

Apparently, she was so nervous she spent the entire 15 minutes in line clawing at her chest, which was all red and scratched by the time her moment arrived. But nothing was going to get between her and those lollipops and toys that were in Santa's basket. So she stuck it out, opted for a side-hug, and even remembered to say "thank you" before dashing off as fast as a reindeer on Christmas Eve.

At the end, they allowed little siblings to say hello to Santa. Now Joci had just woken up from a car nap moments before. She had fallen asleep on the way home from dropping Julia off at preschool and  had stayed that way until it was time to return for pick up. She had a bit of an accident during her nap and wet through her undies and pretty dress (that she had insisted on wearing to be like Julia.) And of course, I didn't know until we were already at the school and she was doing that straddle-legged walk that all parents recognize. I kept hoping no one else would notice she was standing funny. But I knew there was no way I'd get her out of that assembly room without a lollipop of her own. So I let her have her chance to see Santa, ASSUMING my mama's girl/velcro baby would barely endure a side hug like her sister.

I was wrong. So wrong. Girlfriend rushed right up to the bearded fellow, said, "Hi, Santa!" and crawled up onto his knee for a snuggle. I COULD HAVE DIED. I scooted her off his lap as fast as I could and hurried back home to continue our Christmas resting in dry clothes and underwear.

This season may you rest whenever the opportunity arises.
In other news, we bought out last gift today. Well, I ordered our last gift today, from Amazon, while pulling out of parking lot of the store that didn't have what we were looking for. Yup, we actually took all 4 kids out shopping the Saturday before Christmas and NO ONE ended up injured or even crying. But I'm so glad that's behind us. Now, we celebrate. We get all giddy on Christmas parties,  Jon's birthday, drive-thru lights, extra servings of hot chocolate, all the Christmas carols, and frosty mornings (because snow it's just a little far-fetched these days.)

Because if there's one thing I've learned this advent season, it's that "merry" and "rest" can coexist. That real rest doesn't come from habits or traditions, cutting back on my to-do list, or even doing less--although all those things can be helpful during this season of life. But real rest is only found in Him. The greatest gift this season is the Savior the weary world has waited for. And that is something worth celebrating.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

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