Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Festivus For The Rest Of Us

Due to the ice that began coating our streets and freeways around 1pm this afternoon, we were unable to travel north to our scheduled family get-together this afternoon/evening. In lieu of this, we celebrated Festivus with the Zipps, of course!

Most of you probably recognize the Seinfeld reference, and for those who don't click here. The event consists of three components:

The Festivus Pole. We didn't have one of these, which is okay since we very much believe in and love the Christmas tree. But I'm sure if we'd really put our minds to it, we could have come up with something. We did have logs we were trying to turn into a roaring fire. Certainly that counts.

The Airing of Grievances. The Zipps revealed they had about had it with how long it took for us to take care of the fallen tree in our yard this summer . . . and we railed on them for the flippin' broken window (frame and all) they had leaning up against the side of their house for - what - two months? Anyway, airing was done and punches were nearly thrown. Then we ate guacamole.

The Feats of Strength. Although no actual feats of strength were displayed, there were two comedic and potentially injurious near misses that could be described as feats of survival. The evening began with my opening the freezer door only to have a large ceramic jar full of what seemed like years of the Zipps' receipts, old gift cards, and odd contents of Brian's emptied pockets fall nearly on my head, hitting my knee, and shattering on the floor. A bit later, Brian decided to venture over to our back yard for some firewood and busted his tail on our solid-sheet-of-ice driveway as wood went flying. We both could've been killed. Or at least seriously injured.

Let's not forget Sean and Brian with their matching shirts. They are that close.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

All I Want For Christmas Is My F-A-M-I-L-Y.

I love the holidays - especially Christmas because that translates to my entire family getting to be together and spending great time having fun and being the dork nuts that God created us to be!

In my 37 years, I've never spent a Christmas without my family. Not one. During the years that we lived in Houston, it never even occurred to us that things might change or that we'd miss out on anything. We've never been too far away to get back home. Even a 19-hour, straight-through drive with all boys didn't dissuade us from the trip. One year, we were even crashed into by an 18-wheeler (that didn't even stop) on the freeway in Memphis at around 3am. That was a mess, but God had his hand on us the entire time - and we kept on truckin' to get back to family.

Turn around? It would take more than a half-crashed van to keep us from going home for Christmas!

In a few days, my house will be filled with the family my parents started when they were married in 1961: them, my brother and sister and our spouses, and 9 cousins ranging in age from 3 to nearly 18 who all love one another more than life. We sleep all over the house and no one cares, we play games, we eat, we laugh and laugh and laugh. We are not a family who bickers or fights or treats one another badly. This life is too precious and short for that kind of nonsense.

Most of the usual Christmas stresses pretty much roll right off my back because all I mostly care about is my children understanding the true meaning of Christmas and not losing sight of that, and getting to spend several days having fun with my family.

My hope for you is that you are surrounded by precious family during the next week, and that the celebration of Christ's birth isn't lost in all the hoopla that the holiday has turned into. Have a wonderful, awesome, fun-filled, relaxing, enjoyable Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

THAT'S Why They're Pets.

Besides the whole no-opposable-thumbs issue, I know why dogs don't run the world.

Because if it took everyone 10 minutes walking in circles, even outside in 10-degree temperatures, to find the perfect spot to pee, nothing else would ever get accomplished.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Now That's The Spirit.

I love the mall at Christmas time. It's the only time I go anymore. I have neither the time nor the desire to shop these days. Life doesn't allow it. Unless you count cheese, eggs, and deodorant at Walmart or water softener salt and chicken breasts at Sam's Club.

The last sentence makes me want to shout I Love America! But I digress ...

The mall at Christmas. It's like super-concentrated holiday spirit for the ultra-efficient person. You can enjoy an entire holiday experience for the senses all in one place in under an hour.

You've got your various holiday music selections playing overhead as well as filtering out from every store as you walk by; red, green, gold, and silver decorations of every shape and size as far as the eye can see; the mall-walking clans of ladies in their beaded Christmas sweatshirts; and little ones waiting in line to demand from Santa the latest dancing or laughing or poker-playing Elmo that can no longer be found on store shelves anywhere because CNN said it was the toy to have this year.

And let's not forget the $16 digital photo you can purchase of your child on Santa's lap that you could actually take yourself and have printed at Walgreens for under a quarter.

Even the perfume snipers at Macy's must be working on commission this season, as both their aim and determination seem to be more direct than usual. Times are tough, and we all have to earn our keep.

Merry Christmas! Where again is Christ in all of that? Are we sure that the three wise men didn't follow that star to a crowded store first to pick up that gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

So Seth and I ventured to the mall today so he could have a chat with the big bearded guy. His Christmas spirit is in high gear now that the countdown to C-day is in the single digits, and he is wearing his own Santa hat everywhere he goes.

He took it off, however, before talking to Santa, I believe out of pure reverence.

He started out the trip telling me that "Santa is fake. He's not real. He's just fake," and ended the trip with "You know, I think that might be the real Santa." The guy must have been convincing - what with having a cell phone on that big black belt and all.

He obviously must have to stay in constant touch with the elves up north.

It was a nice hour or so spent soaking up the holiday atmosphere, and we capped it off with a Happy Meal at the food court. Does a 5-year-old's day get any better?

I think not.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let The Season Commence!

I finally bit the bullet and decorated. We bought a smaller tree this year to make room since there will be 14 people here for Christmas this year (8 of which are kids). The gifts around the tree with all of those people will, I'm sure, overtake the actual tree, but that's quite fine. There is nothing like a house full of your closest family to celebrate the most significant event in the history of the world. We all love being crammed in together and practically on top of one another - it's all just too fun! The grandkids range in age from 3 to almost 18 and all not only get along fabulously, but love being together. We are so blessed.

In this branch of the clan, it is fun still having a little one in our midst who is quite enamored with the whole idea of Santa and Christmas. With his autism delays, Seth (5) has really only understood Christmas and Santa for a couple of years; and this year he is just now getting a grasp on the true meaning of the holiday, Jesus' birth, and what we are celebrating. It's not a tight grasp, but peripherally he is beginning to understand. And my heart soars along with every question he asks about it. He's getting it.

So behold some evidence that I actually got some decorations up:

Seth excited to wake up and find the tree up and ready to decorate.

Joel and Seth decorating the tree (Alexx is too cool to participate).

The obligatory boys-in-front-of-the-tree photo.

Our "Texas tree" in honor of our years being Texans and how much we miss it!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Things Are Gonna Get Crazy!

Tonight will be the year's largest full moon of the year and here's why. It has to do with the earth being something like 17,000 miles closer to the moon and blah, blah, blah (just go read the article).

It will appear the largest right at sunset - so get yourself out there and check it out. Take some pictures and send them to me! I'll put them on another post. Please? You know how I love taking in God's universe.

How illuminating it will be!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Great Is Our God?

As I walked out my front door 10 minutes ago to this awesome sight, I was stuck pondering the question: How can any human question God's presence in this world?

There are no words.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What A Difference A Year Makes

One year ago right now (to the hour!), I had just had surgery on my foot, wasn't allowed to be up except to use the bathroom, and was higher than a kite on pain meds when Seth fell playing in the snow and broke his arm clean through both bones.

My four-year-old autistic son, who could barely tolerate looking in to the eyes of a stranger was about to go through a horrible ordeal at the hands of many strangers - while I sat right beside him and let them.

I prayed with him on the way to the hospital, and once we got there - I refused to let anyone else carry him in. Having raised this stubborn girl, I think my dad (who drove us there) knew that this was one battle not to try and fight. This act of motherly defiance set back my own recovery time, as it pulled apart some of my stitches and I later had to go an extra two weeks before having them removed because of it. But at the time, I would have endured anything to make my son realize that I was there to protect him and make him know that everything was going to be okay.

Seth had to be taken into surgery to re-set his arm, and ironically, the same anesthesiologist who had been in my surgery the week before was in Seth's.

Nine hours and another surgery later, we were back home, it was the middle of the night, and I was lying in bed wondering how in the world I was going to take care of my son not being able to get up myself.

Seth amazed us all. I think he even proved to himself what he was capable of. It was as if he stared his autism dead in the eye and said, "Back off, I can handle this." This child who could barely handle a change in his daily routine handled a complete upset in every area of his being.

He had to handle strangers in a strange place poking him, hurting him, making him talk to them; and then for the next four weeks he had to take medicine (a traumatic thing for him on a good day), learn to do everything with the opposite hand (he broke his right arm), have something on him that didn't feel right that he couldn't take off, and generally deal with pain, frustration, and not being able to do a lot of things that were routine for him. And he handled it all with so much normalcy that all of us around him were in shock.

Quite simply, he showed us!

It was as if in a bigger-than-life way, God showed him and us that Seth was so much stronger and more on his way than any of us realized.

He also showed us how incredibly blessed we are, as a family, to be surrounded by the people that we are. We were taken care of by so many people it was unbelievable. Of course our immediate families swooped in - my parents, my sister, Sean's mom all came in shifts to run this house. Our best friends next door, the Zipps, did so much for us; girls from my Bible study and just general members of our church family and friends brought us meal after meal, stopped by with Starbucks for me (yum!), goodies for the kids, and just chat time.

They all made a pretty hard time for us beautiful because we felt so loved.

This Christmas season, I'm thankful that all is normal (well, normal for us) and I'm getting to enjoy the holidays fully - and not from a recliner. I'm thankful that Seth is also fully-functioning this Christmas. I'm thankful that this past year I have been able to pass on that spirit of giving and help other people who are in need with my own time.

(This is a messageboard signature that my friend made for me last year.)
And I'm also thankful that I'm 14 pounds lighter now than I was in this photo!
Hey - we all have our demons.
Happy early, uneventful holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Just What Is Normal and Appropriate?

Parents of special-needs kids everywhere can relate to this phenomenon. You see your child do something that may be inappropriate that needs to be reprimanded in some way, but your first instinct is to be proud. Huh?
When you have watched your child be consistently behind others his age for years with developmental delays - whether physical, mental, emotional, or social - you long for him to do something on-level with his peers. So if it happens to be something that really isn't praise-worthy, you honestly don't care - at least initially.
Now in our instance, Seth (5) has been struggling with autism since being diagnosed at 2.5 years old. Take this and couple it with the completely normal situation of being the youngest of two significantly older brothers who pass on to him things that most kids his age don't know about yet, and you've got some pretty interesting stuff coming out of his mouth. This from a child who has trouble processing whether or not something is appropriate or how it will affect the person he is saying it to.
It is quite interesting around our house a lot of the time. For instance, his memorization of Michael Scott from "The Office" talking about reverse psychology was . . . hilarious - yet not quite appropriate for a four-year-old. So you can imagine how trying to find the balance between being so incredibly glad that he's "getting" something or understanding how to put ideas together and express them and trying to teach him what he can and cannot do and say is often a struggle.
Alexx (17) and Joel (10) have pulled Seth deep into Star Wars, so this morning he pointed a candy cane at the dog and with great fervor said, "FREEZE rebel scum!" How age-appropriate! How normal! How very BOY!
Now I have to go make him understand that he can't do that to the sweet little girl sitting beside him in the classroom.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Don't Judge, Lest You Be Judged.

Hello, Internet. I'm going to tell you something personal. Please don't pass it on. I trust that you won't since we are so close.

I. Don't. Like. Christmas. Decorating.

There. I love my house after it's decorated; I enjoy immensely other people's efforts to make the world a Christmas-y wonderland. But today I actually compared trying to make myself decorate for Christmas to having a research paper hanging over my head.

I wish I could just come home and find that someone has broken into my house and put up all of my Christmas stuff. Or how about this? Someone come to my house and put all of my Christmas stuff up while I make you a fantastic dinner to enjoy as payment. I know - not quite even. How about two dinners?

Please don't condemn me. There are just other things I like to do in my very little spare time.

Like write.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Baaaaaack!

Winter, that is. And I have one word for you. YUCK. No - I have three. I. Miss. Houston.

This is my backyard this morning:
This is what it looked like in my backyard at the end of November in Texas:

But life goes on, and we move with it. Embracing the winters that I grew up with continues to be a struggle - but a struggle that I shrug off because it means I am surrounded by my family again, which means a world more than sunny, warm Decembers and close proximity to the beach.

So when I walk out my door and see this:
I can smile because it means my mom and dad are only an hour away and my boys' cousins whom they adore along with the rest of my family will flood our house in three weeks for Christmas - which never, ever happened in Texas.
So thank you, God, for bringing us back home - and please continue helping us adjust a little more each year when the curtain drops on the nice weather. It is well worth it!