Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. " Luke 2:11
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

I wish you peace today - in your home and your neighborhood, with family, with friends and yes, even with enemies. But most of all, I wish you peace with God that Jesus came to bring, the peace that only Jesus can bring.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33.

This is what Christmas is about. It's about God making a way for things to be right between Him and us. Sure, life here and now won't always be sunshine and roses, but we can be sure that one day all things will be made right and whole and we'll live eternally in peace rather than condemnation. Yet I think it's alright to hope for peace now too. It's something that our hearts long for and something we rejoice in finding. So even though peace on earth may be fleeting or illusive, I hope that today you find it. And I hope in finding it you understand Christmas even better.

Merry Christmas! Peace to you and yours.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Calgon, Take Me Away!

Remember that commercial? The one with the harried mom, who escapes to her bath to relax? Seems appropriate for this busy time of year, doesn't it. After all, who wouldn't go for an evening of quiet to relax in a warm bath right about now.

I got to thinking about Calgon the other evening as I poured some bath salts into the tub for the Uber Princess.

"See how it makes the water feel smooth?" I asked her. I waited for her response and in that moment a rush of memories came to me.

Suddenly I was eleven years old again and at my grandmother's house, running my hands through the silky smoothness of a Calgon-rich bath. It was a special wintertime treat, just at Grandma's house, to have Calgon in my bath. And nothing compared. The water would be steaming when I climbed in and I would sneak a look at the snow-covered forest out the window beside the tub before sinking down into the warmth. I'd soak until the water grew chilly or one of my sisters banged on the door for their turn. Then reluctantly I would slide out, slick with the softened water. I'd huddle in my towel for a bit, frustrated by the lingering feeling of being wet that couldn't be dried away, but still pleased to have such a treat.

I couldn't tell if my homemade salts softened the water the same way that Calgon did. And I couldn't recreate the magic of baths at Grandma's house on a cold winter night. But it was enough to have that memory take me away, back to those special times.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Holiday Organization

Yesterday I was thinking about writing a post on staying organized during the Christmas season. I'd been pulling things together for holiday food prep and was feeling super on-top-of-things. Then today came. With no bread in the house (even though I stopped at the grocery store yesterday) I scrambled to pack lunches for my girls. I scrounged up a couple of hamburger buns, slapped on mayo and cheese and called it good.

Then close to pick up time for kindergarten I realized that I hadn't planned what to feed the Uber-Princess and her two friends. No bread, supply of mac 'n cheese questionable - what to do?! Thankfully my freezer contained a dozen chicken nuggets and multiple bags of french fries. Stocking up in quantity pays off sometimes.

I think I've recovered from the bread fiasco now. However, any tips I share here on staying organized between Thanksgiving and Christmas... well, don't take it from me as an expert. Instead take it from one who needs it as much or even more than you.

Here's my tip: if you have more than one cookbook or recipe file you use for things like Christmas cookies and other holiday cooking, save yourself the stress of trying to locate all your special recipes. Instead copy the recipes for all the foods you traditionally make and place them into a binder along with all of your other Christmastime information (Christmas card lists, gift lists, etc). I like to keep the Christmas morning recipes on one page, party foods on another and cookies/candies on another. Then at the end of November when I'm making a list of ingredients to stock up on, I'm less likely to forget one of our favorites. I can easily scan the pages and plan my list. This is especially useful for those recipes that you only use once a year. It's such a relief in the midst of the busyness to have all this information at your fingertips.

Now if I could just find that holiday binder... Just kidding! Hope you're staying sane in the midst of all the preparations, packages and parties.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Nobody Everyone Is Special

The other day I had a conversation that was very telling of a phenomenon in our culture that has backfired on itself. Here's the conversation, see if you can catch what's wrong with the picture:

Grandma: I found a really cute matching t-shirt set the other day at Bass Pro Shops that would be great for the Uber-Princess and her Grandpa. They say "My Fishing Buddy".

Me: Cool! That does sound perfect. She loves to fish with him.

Grandma: Yeah, but then I thought maybe all the other grandkids would feel left out.

Me: Oh? Well, certainly my kids would think it's cool since they don't care as much about fishing as she does.

Grandma: Well, I didn't get them. I didn't want anyone to feel bad.

So there you have it. See what's wrong there? Nobody gets to be special in case it makes somebody else feel bad. Amusing Dad pointed out that it's a lot like our park district soccer games. The teams aren't allowed to keep score. That way there aren't any "losers". But then again there also aren't any winners. In an effort to protect children's "fragile" psyche's, we rob them of the opportunity to be applauded for anything. And all the sheltering we do is foolishness. The kids get it. They know which team won and which team lost. Even if we're not keeping score - they are. And in doing so they reflect something about human nature. They reflect the natural desire we all have to know where we rank in just about every area of life...because we hope that somewhere in there we'll come out on top.

It's unfortunate that society has ruled that the adults aren't allowed to call it like it is and actually make kids feel special. So the Uber-Princess's cousins aren't Grandpa's fishing buddies. They might be his bird watching buddies or workshop buddies or something else instead. Or maybe they're special to Grandpa for some other reason entirely. Too bad their grandparents (on one side of the family, at least) will never actually let them know it - or if they do, certainly not where anyone else can hear. And too bad that kids everywhere are being offered fewer and fewer opportunities to be recognized publicly for the gifts and abilities God has given them. No wonder kids have "self esteem issues" these days. All of our coddling has had the exact opposite effect.

This mom thinks it's time to stop saying that nobody is special and start finding the things that make each child special. For Christmas this year, maybe we should give our kids a hearty pat on the back for every thing they've done well at or tried hard at or failed graciously at. And we should do it in the presence of their siblings. They just might learn not to make the same mistake we've been making in recent years. They might learn that it's okay for somebody else to be Grandpa's fishing buddy. And in this age, that in itself would make them special.

Quick follow up to the Christmas Miracles post: Llama Momma was the winner of the gift basket drawing. Congrats to her!