Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Day With My Kids

Someone has been praying for me; I can tell. I had a fairly restful night's sleep last night, a marked improvement over the last many; awoke feeling almost refreshed and ready to get up; and had a peaceful day, enjoying every minute of being surrounded by my children. Even bedtime was pleasant and unhurried. If you qualify as someone who has been praying for me and for my family, I thank you.

Christmas is a little different this year for us. We will be travelling over the actual holidays and will be moving soon, back to the Homestead, so we are not anxious to pull out any decor, plus we just haven't been feeling terribly festive lately, anyway. I have retrieved the Christmas music and the books from storage and we have been enjoying those, but everything else is quite informal. Gift-giving has been more along the lines of the Hanukkah, opening gifts over many days as they come, as there is no tree under which to compile them.

We had planned to give our kids their main gifts from us last night, as neither child's gift could wait. Tano had a flyer for a Christian rock concert featuring some of his favorite bands that he was longing to go to on the 17th, but had no money. It was a teachable moment, of course, and I pointed out that he regularly spent so much of his pocket money on unnecessary snacks that he wasn't prepared for something cool like this when it came along. I let him feel the weight of his poor spending habits for a week while we made plans to get tickets for him and his dad and a buddy to make a wonderful evening of it. We were so excited.

But yesterday, the concert was cancelled due to sluggish ticket sales. The tickets we'd already purchased were invalid and would be refunded. So disappointing! Although we'd already promised presents to open last night, we put them off until morning while we tried to come up with an alternate idea.

This morning, we presented him with a certificate for some new music CD's from the Christian bookstore. The boy would have some cool tunes for Christmas one way or another. He was thrilled.

The girl's gift came in a much bigger package than the boy's simple envelope. She had told me a few weeks ago, with dreamy eyes full of faraway twinkling stars, that what she really, really wanted for Christmas was her own Christmas tree for her bedroom, one that would be hers alone.

Can do.

She is now the proud owner of a three foot artificial tree with little white lights, a funky garland that fits the seven-year old definition of beautiful, two dozen little ornaments and a sparkly star for the topper. It sits upon a fluffy white drape in the corner of her bedroom, glimmering with more magic and hope than all of Disneyland.

After we gave the kids their gifts, Andy had to leave to work over at the Homestead on the remodel project, the way he fills much of his time these days. The kids and I went to pick out Tano's CD's. There was a great sale going on, so he was able to pick out more than we'd expected. He thanked me again and again and called his dad on the cell phone to thank him. It was a homerun of a gift.

From there, we headed up the valley to Missoula. The traffic and hustle and bustle and ugly piles of dirty, leftover snow of Missoula in winter is always a shock to my senses when I've been sheltered in my quaint little valley for weeks on end, but the same city on a Saturday only ten days from Christmas is even worse. And horror of horrors, we were headed to the mall. I had an early gift to return to Macy's and exchange for something else, and the boy needed boxers and undershirts.

I amused myself and my children with a very ominous presentation of what we would encounter, going to the mall so close to Christmas. I have shielded them from this experience in previous years, in part to stave off the rampant materialism that assaults at every turn. This time the trip was necessary, so I tried to prepare them adequately beforehand, hoping upon hope to present such a humorously horrifying image that they would view themselves as outsiders and not get swept up in commerce's version of the most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all.

It worked.

They were duly appalled at the mayhem in the parking lot, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds inside, the overabundance of music and gaudy lights and decor, the banners and signs everywhere encouraging shoppers to buy, buy, buy as if their very lives depended upon it! Elli actually clutched my hand nervously as we pushed our way through the crowds. She hasn't done that in quite a while.

We got the boy some new skivvies (as my grandpa would say) and then realized with dismay that Macy's is not at the mall. It is downtown. Just goes to show you how much shopping I do.

We went there next and I found a very cute top and hoodie of the same value to replace the item I'd been given. From there, we went to several other stores on the list of errands. We even braved Costco. And all of it was accomplished with smiles and genuine patience and enjoyment of each other's company. It was really supernatural. I'm telling you; people have been praying.

On the way home, we stopped in to visit my grandpa. It was a long, leisurely visit. He and I chatted as best as we could--he doesn't hear much, so I have to yell every sentence--while the kids sat on the floor and played with dominoes and Rummikub tiles, building all sorts of structures with them. Tano was creating Indian villages. Elli was inspired by the huge gingerbread house display at the mall.

The kids and I made it home by seven o'clock in the evening, plenty of time to relax before bed time. I sent Elli to the shower while Tano busied himself with sampling his new music and building with his Legos. I set out to make us some comfort food for a late dinner--Chad Potatoes. When they were ready, I wandered down the hall to the kids' rooms to call them to dinner. Tano had a new little robot to show me. It was decidedly cute, for some reason--even he thought so with some dismay. I found Elli in her pajamas, hair still dripping wet, sitting next to her Christmas tree and quietly reading the new Christmas book by the glow of its twinkling lights. It was bad for her eyes, but it was beautiful and I held my tongue. Instead of calling her to eat, I asked if she needed a few more minutes. She beamed at the freedom and nodded. She could join us when she finished the book.

A note on "the book": Each year, since Tano was tiny, I have purchased a new Christmas-themed book for the kid(s). By now, we have quite a collection. The Christmas books only come out during the Christmas season, and are put away again afterward, stored away with the holiday decor. The kids look forward to a happy reunion with their beloved Christmas books every year and spend hours poring over them. In this case, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. They love all of the books, even the simple little board books from the early years. This year's book is Angela and the Baby Jesus, by Frank McCourt. It is a wonderful true story of the author's mother, as a child in Ireland, and her misguided concern for the baby Jesus figurine in the life-size manger scene in their Catholic church. It is really very sweet, and poignant, and irreverent and deeply spiritual, all in one. I think it will be a favorite. It was this book that had captured the attention of the sweet little pajama-clad girl sitting next to her very own Christmas tree.

The Chad Potatoes turned out perfectly and had the desired effect, comfort for a weary soul.

After dinner, I braided Elli's damp hair and trimmed her bangs. She looked lovely as I sent her off to finish getting ready for bed.

After what had seemed to be plenty of time, I knocked on her door and opened it, expecting to find her in bed with another book, as is her habit. Instead, I found her sitting next to her little tree again, only she wasn't reading. She looked deep in thought and I offered her a few more minutes. She came out a few minutes later with tears welling up in her eyes, but her saddened face was peaceful and calm, almost serene.

"I didn't cry very much, Mama, but I did cry a little bit and I prayed. I took one of my ornaments off the tree and held it deeply and stared at the tree and prayed."

Then suddenly, the tears spilled over onto her soft cheeks and she blurted out, "I miss Grandma so much!"

We cried together, then, for I had been missing her that day, too. But her tears were short-lived. Her face quickly resumed its angelic sweet sadness and she smiled at me. I was struck by her beauty in that moment, and kneeling in front of her, I told her so. Just then, her brother came back from brushing his teeth and seeing our tears, asked what was wrong. I told him we were missing Grandma. Then I asked him to come and stand where I was and look at how beautiful his sister was right then. He was genuine in his response and complimented her highly. I thought she might burst with pleasure. He is such a sweet boy. As I tucked him in, I whispered to him how huge it was to his sister that he thought she was pretty--and was willing to say so.

I tucked Elli into her sleeping bag, on the floor next to her tree. She lay on her side and gazed into the beauty of the glorious little tree. The wonder and magic and pure delight on her face was almost more than I could take, and I have been a little weepy, on and off, since then.

All that to say, I had a really lovely day and evening.

Thank-you for your prayers.


Anonymous said...

Howdy from NOLA Y'all, it is great to hear that Chad potatoes still live. They live and have become a new favorite here also.

Continuing to intercede at the throne on your behalf.


Anonymous said...

Someone else is praying for you too!

Anonymous said...

Someone else is praying for you too!