Six days to Christmas and all is well

My son’s Christmas countdown tells me it is currently six days until Christmas. My radio, tuned to the local non-stop Christmas music station, agrees, as does my kitchen, currently overflowing with the remains of last week’s massive round of Christmas baking. We visited the Dickens Christmas festival in downtown Franklin last Sunday and have watched several of our favorite holiday movies. We’ve read as many versions of the nativity story as we can get our hands on. I am enjoying all these things while simultaneously remaining completely astonished that this year is drawing to a close.

So, here I am, finally posting a few pictures from our lovely Thanksgiving at the in-laws’ in Georgia.

IMG_5084

The spread

IMG_5085

These potatoes, y’all…

IMG_5094

The table

IMG_5098

The crew

IMG_5105    IMG_5106

IMG_5113

The family

IMG_5118

IMG_5121

The handsomest grandpa around

There are times when it nearly takes my breath away, how fast life is passing and how quickly my children change. This year, Corin remembers nearly every detail of last Christmas and can look forward to holiday events with much more specific anticipation. He put a lot of the ornaments on the tree this year. He also understands more and more of the Christmas story. Lina still mostly ignores a lot of the preliminaries and really still prefers that we open gifts for her so she can get to the fun part of playing with whatever’s inside. She adores the holiday sweets, and her fairly new appreciation for babies makes the story of baby Jesus one she can relate to better than most. Today, she spontaneously said “Bible” for the first time, and then repeated it throughout the morning. Our Little People nativity set – given us by Aunt Lila several years ago – is always a big hit, and we will spend more time this next week acting out the story of Jesus’ birth in a way that hopefully brings it home a bit for the munchkins.

As an adult, you would think the endless repetition of the nativity story would get old. I find the opposite is true. Every year, the story has new meaning for me. This year, I’ve been struck by the universality of the gift of God’s Son: “Good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” We humans tend to put everyone on a worthiness scale. It has come home hard this year that God sent a Savior for everyone. I find myself asking, “What am I doing to bring God to people where they are?” It’s a hard question, and I wrestle with what that really looks like in my life. For now, I am thankful for the seasonal reminder of a boundless love that belongs to all of us.

IMG_5213

IMG_5215

Singing and dancing to Christmas music

IMG_5230

IMG_5231

IMG_5218

IMG_5221

IMG_5224

IMG_5242

IMG_5244

 

Trimming the tree

Christmas is finally in full swing around here. The tree is up, the decorating is (almost) done, and I’m finally in the spirit. (I was beginning to think we’d just have to celebrate in February, because it felt like it should still be October.)

For most of our married life and all of our children’s lives, we’ve had a fake “slim profile” tree, which was the only thing to fit in our tiny living room. This first Christmas in the new house marks the long-awaited return to a real tree. I had idealistic plans for a rooted tree that could be planted outside after the holiday, but our trip to a local nursery yesterday doused that dream in reality. Turns out, we had completely underestimated the size of the root ball for a 6-foot tree. As Jon emphatically pointed out – to my disappointed protests – there was no way we could lift that tree, much less carry it up the stairs and into the living room. I couldn’t reconcile myself to the tiny tree we might be able to lift (with still considerable effort), so we headed to the section with the cut trees and chose the modest (and considerably more maneuverable) Fraser fir which now adorns our living room. I keep breathing deeply; I’d forgotten how lovely that smell is. I even like that it’s a smidge crooked. Our simple tree’s not-perfection is just right.

The “ordaments” (Corin’s rendition) are a mishmash we’ve collected over the years. Some are cheap plastic, some are beautiful, delicate glass (located at the top of the tree these days), and some are rough, hand-made crafts covered in kids’ fingerprints. A big part of the Christmas tree tradition for me has always been unwrapping the same ornaments every December, the protective paper yellowing and eventually having to be replaced, the memories stacking atop one another as the years roll by. It was that way all through my childhood, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Decorating the tree is always helter-skelter with small kids, but those ornaments and the attached memories are precious to me.

We are trying to keep things simple this year. There has been very little shopping, save a special outing with my dad. Relatives have been warned: prepare for homemade! It keeps holiday expenses more manageable, but really, I think I prefer it this way. (I can’t speak for how the relatives feel.)

So, here we go. The Christmas whirlwind whirls, and we do what we can to slow it down, grasping fleeting moments to stop and savor.

IMG_2107

I’ve discovered the key to taking photos of my son. “Corin, whatever you do, don’t get in this picture.”

IMG_2109

IMG_2111

IMG_2117

IMG_2118

Getting a huge kick out of trying to eat the rocks

IMG_2125

I mean, people, look at the size of those root balls!

 

IMG_2128

IMG_2135

In illustration of the usual state of my sinuses, Corin insisted the delicate tea pot ornament was a neti pot.

IMG_2145

IMG_2148

Yes, Lina decorated the tree without a shirt. No, I don’t really know why.

IMG_2156

IMG_2158

A new favorite from last year: father-son hiking boots

IMG_2160

IMG_2179

“The Night Before Christmas”

IMG_2185

IMG_2186

Christmas 2013, Part II

A Christmas Review Well After the Fact, and in Two Parts
(Part I)

Christmas Eve supper is a long-standing traditional feast in my family, with an offering of gourmet cheeses and crackers, fresh fruit and veggies, and the crowning piece de resistance, my dad’s beyond-amazing, almond-filled Christmas wreath bread. The kids played, we feasted, and it was a lovely evening.

(All the photos in this post are courtesy my brother. Thanks, Ry!)

_MG_5265

_MG_5270

_MG_5280

_MG_5284

_MG_5289

_MG_5293

_MG_5299

_MG_5304

_MG_5312

_MG_5314

_MG_5321

_MG_5329

_MG_5368

_MG_5369

_MG_5377

As is always the case, pretty pictures tell only part of the story. Christmas Day was long for the kids (but certainly not for the adults), dinner was late, and it turned out Grandma Titus was not well (which resulted in most of the rest of us coming down with a thoroughly unpleasant stomach bug within a few days). But our family was together (even if we were trying to keep the kids away from poor great-grandma), the food was fantastic, and there was great delight over wonderfully thoughtful gifts. Ultimately, Christmas for us will always be celebrating the most important gift ever given with the people we love the most. At its core, it’s really that simple – and that deep.

_MG_5396

_MG_5400

_MG_5404

_MG_5407

_MG_5412

_MG_5416

_MG_5419

_MG_5420

_MG_5424

_MG_5426

_MG_5427

_MG_5428

_MG_5431

_MG_5434

_MG_5443

_MG_5455

Christmas 2013, Part I

A Christmas Review Well After the Fact, and in Two Parts

It took eight ages for a variety of reasons, one of which was the transition to my new computer (a laptop! I can blog from the living room couch!), but finally, I have our Christmas pictures ready for sharing. There are so many of them, in fact, that I have crashed Word Press multiple times trying to fit them into a single post. So, a two-parter it is.

_MG_6112

_MG_6179

We had an early celebration with Jon’s family the weekend before Christmas, with presents Saturday night and brunch with both sets of parents at the Opryland Hotel Sunday morning.

_MG_6308

_MG_6309

_MG_6326

_MG_6327

_MG_6337

_MG_6338

_MG_6339

_MG_6344

_MG_6348

_MG_6351

_MG_6378

_MG_6383

Christmas Eve supper and most of Christmas Day were spent at my parents’ house with my family, which will be in the next post. But to finish out this one, here is our quiet Christmas morning at home.

_MG_6387

_MG_6388

_MG_6392

_MG_6393

_MG_6394

_MG_6400

_MG_6402

_MG_6405

_MG_6408

_MG_6412

_MG_6415

_MG_6421

_MG_6434

_MG_6437

 

(Part II)

Also on the subject of oxygen…

That last blog post title has an ironic ring to it, given that I spent the night with Lina in the ER, getting her breathing treatments for croup that spiraled out of control. Poor baby had terrible stridor and was having to use her whole body to suck in enough air.

So, this was our night:

1527121_10152479313239745_1113637277_n

We finally got home and back to bed at 4 a.m. Baby girl is sounding much better, and with the steroid they prescribed, hopefully we can avoid future ER visits.

Good thing we were all so well rested. (Oh, wait…) But truly, just thankful this morning that she’s okay and for a day with family, who are braving our germs to celebrate the holiday. Stay healthy, everyone.

Finding the oxygen

The holidays around here are a mixture of delight and insanity. I spend the last week or so before Christmas totally under water. This year, my cards are likely to be post-Christmas greetings for a fair portion of my list. I paid someone to deep clean my house on Wednesday, but by today, my floors were already gross again. There is an extensive list of items I was supposed to complete today that never happened. Half the string of lights beautifying my living room burned out, just in time for our first family event here tomorrow. 

It’s 6:10 p.m. My sweet husband is preparing supper, because I have had zero time for food prep. Lina is sitting in my lap, wheezing with every breath, thanks to a nasty cold she got from yours truly, who got it from Corin, who is still coughing. Someone in this house has been sick since September. I don’t understand it, but I will tell you that after the holiday, we will be purging this house of sugar, going to bed early and avoiding anyone who appears to be thinking about sneezing. (As if that last one is possible.)

So yeah – when we have a moment to surface for air, we find ourselves wondering, like so many of you, how this became the pace of our lives. I don’t exactly know the answer. I am finding some ways to start simplifying, thanks to girlfriends who are reminding me to lower my expectations. Like, really lower them. I’m trying.

And also, there really are so many moments of magic crammed into these crazy days. It’s how I can still love this time of year. There was making gingerbread cookies with Corin yesterday (admittedly followed by over-tired tantrums). There are the repeated readings of favorite versions of the Christmas story. (Mortimer’s Christmas Manger is currently Corin’s favorite, while Humphrey’s First Christmas continues to be mine.) There was Corin’s excitement about delivering packages of cookies to the neighbors earlier this evening. There is Lina tangling herself up in Christmas lights and exploring the ornaments on the bottom of the tree. There is the music, which I love so truly. Those moments are the deep breaths of oxygen in these underwater days.

So, here we go: The Christmas home stretch. I’m going to try to find a little more of this kind of wonder.

_MG_6144