Saturday, December 28, 2013

Seven Days of Christmas: Day 4

I have been a bit slow getting the next of our seven days of Christmas posted, but today while my kids are at a sleepover with their cousins I have taken a moment to add more to this series. 
It's been a fun change to work on publishing these - being so different from my usual posts because of their focus on the every day adventures with my kids (and there are even real pictures!)

Still Giving!

So, as I mentioned in Day 2 (Games and Giving), we made all the cookies only to find I couldn't find the gift bags! So on Day 4, I bought new ones and we started the day off by venturing up and down our street to deliver neighbor gifts the old-fashioned way: no car, in the cold, stopping to talk with anyone who was home. We had some great visits and got to meet neighbors we hadn't before - loved it! I might just do this every holiday!
The second door we knocked on, we were welcomed in to the house of Elise's old Sunday School teacher (not that he's old, just that he isn't her teacher any more :). He has recently retired from managing the BYU Bookstore art department and is a native of Italy. We loved seeing all the art in his home (both his and others'). To the left, Elise is posing under a beautiful replica painting of Mary and the Christ child being serenaded by angels - playing the violin no less! Below is a picture of a holiday decor he made for his wife from a block of wood and an old tree decoration that had bell-ringers hitting bells to play Christmas tunes.

It was VERY impressive! And still so much we could have gazed at and taken in on the shelves and walls of his home. What a fun visit! Before we left, he shared pictures with us of his recent experience being an extra in a few of the LDS Bible videos (they bleached his hair to fit him for the role of being a shepherd in one of the videos).  No, he wasn't trying to look like Santa this season - but he sure does now!

In all, it was a wonderful morning spent getting to know our neighbors better and spreading some Christmas cheer - a great ending to Day 2 . . . two days late. :-)

But the day was just getting started! We still had to get ready for . . .

Books and Blankets

This is one of my favorites of the seven days. The kids make a tent out of blankets and sheets and we give them new books and read them together before they sleep in their "new residence." Before we could make the tent, though, we had to perform a miracle!!  What miracle would that be? Well, I thought it would be going from this:

 To the house looking more like this:

But I was soon to find out that the best miracles are the unexpected ones you don't plan on or ask for.

 Like your youngest daughter throwing a tantrum because she WANTED to be the one to do the dishes.

Or your two youngest children having fun taking turns being the one to wash (four turns 8 minutes each mind you!)

Or that your daughter was upset that she didn't get to do the last dishes (hadn't she had enough??)

Or that taking her picture can settle her down so quickly (my little narcissist) 

But even better were these words from my daughter:

Me: Norah, you have been such an amazing helper today. You passed out neighbor gifts, you cleaned dishes, and now you sure are cooking that chicken well.
Norah: Yeah. That's because I want to be a mom and have kids.
Precious. Gifts mommy's like to hear.

So. This is reality blogging. Yes, our living area went right back to being a disaster after making dinner and a tent, but that brings up one more miracle I've felt a lot this year and I guess I'll make it the thought for this post (and somehow I'll tie it in to Christmas!): 

A messy house doesn't have power over me like it use to. 

I finally came to realize a couple years ago (and it's been growing deeper every passing day) that it's not my job to keep the house clean. The state of the house does not reflect how well I'm doing my job. Because I'm not a housekeeper. I'm a mother (in training!!!!) And being a mother means raising a family in Light and Truth with love-guided agency. At least, that's what I believe.

If chores are killing the love in our home in the Present Moment, my Inner Guide has taught me I need to remember to scrap how I'm going about them until I find a way that brings light (which builds, binds and strengthens relationships) and chases away darkness (which creates cracks and emptiness in relationships). If that way doesn't come at first, I must keep trying something new, make it a matter of prayer, listen for and follow the nudges that come until I find that way.

Because Light is more important than cleanliness.

I should probably explain my lingo. When I say "Light," I'm not talking about sunlight, I'm talking about a spiritual light. I'm talking about a condition of the soul and the environment that grows out of your soul's influence that makes it possible for you and others around you to see and feel Truth and direction from the spirit (Truth being eternal Truths that don't change, not temporary "trues" that are often used to darken our soul - infinite thanks to my mentor for highlighting this important distinction).

I believe that just as sunlight or artificial light helps me see things in the physical world, Light (with a capital "L" :-) helps me see Truth in the spiritual world. You could say, then, that this kind of Light expands our understanding - gets us outside of our temporal world boxes (follow that link for a picture of what I'm thinking of when I say that). A spiritual state of darkness is a time or moment when I feel clouded, contentious, lazy, boxed in, or when I might feel the need to justify my actions, when I can't think clearly or learn easily, when I am fearful, worried, anxious, or seeking addictive forms of relief.

So! Putting it all together!

 If a messy house is the result of a way to create things full of LIGHT and TRUTH by:
searching for them in books, 
sketching them with paper,
 feeding the search for them with food, 
playing in that stream of Light with string,
 and glue,
 and clay,
 and LEGOS,
 and blocks,
 and scissors,
 and pens,
 and pencils,
 and instruments,
 and music,
 and sheets,
 and wooden stools ETC!!!

... then I'll take the mess as PROOF of doing my job. And if the mess needs to be cleaned before we can go on, or in order to not make visitors feel unwelcome, in order to keep an environment of Light - then that is purpose and motivation to clean! TOGETHER. And there is nothing wrong with a daily habit of this group effort! But I'm doing better at remembering to keep the purpose in place.

It took a miracle to get me here - angels and inspiration and blood sweat and tears. I'm still growing in my understanding of it. Still polishing the craft. But it's becoming one of the greatest gifts of understanding God has given me in the recent past.

And now I share the "taste" of it with you this Christmas season!
There. I tied it in to the holiday. :-)

Reading our new books together before bed.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seven Days of Christmas: Day 3

Day Three: Fleece and a Film

Last year we made fleece blankets while watching "It's a Wonderful Life" with the intent of dropping them off at Primary Children's hospital. When Elizabeth had gone to that hospital with a concussion on Easter of 2012 they gave her a fleece blanket as soon as she arrived. This act of love overwhelmed me. My daughter was not able to remember her name, couldn't say more than a few letters of the alphabet, knew she knew me, but wasn't sure who I was. All because she'd collided with a cousin on the swings at grandma's thirty minutes before.  I was a mess. And that blanket was a comfort like no warmth on a cold day could bring.  I still cry remembering the feeling that some woman loved enough to take the time to make something that could bring so much reassurance and peace during a particularly difficult time. Lizzy sleeps with it every night and I will never forget. 

Yet, the trip to Primary's with all the kids in tow never came until I finally decided to save them for this year. Here we are, finally dropping off our blankets carefully tucked away in the window seat for a year! *sigh*

Next, we met Adam at home to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" together. The kids decided to use the boxes from violin shipments for theater seats :-). The rest of us snuggled on the coach.  They weren't sure about this black and white movie (even though they'd seen it last year), but after a little convincing and ten minutes in, they were hooked. Adam needed to get up early to work in the temple so I suggested we finish the rest the next day, but they insisted they wanted to finish it and would put their selves to bed. 

Twenty minutes later as Adam and I were drifting off to sleep, Norah knocked on our door crying, "This movie is too sad!  I can't watch, I can't watch!"  I assured her she'd like the ending and that it was only pretend that he'd lost all his family, but that she could snuggle with me if she didn't want to finish watching. She decided she wanted to give it a try. 

Forty or so minutes later when we were asleep, another little knock came on the door followed by Norah coming to me and giving me a kiss on the cheek with a sweet "I love you mommy, goodnight." Then Ellie came next, giving me a hug, crying, and saying how sorry she was that she had made a fuss saying she didn't want to watch the old black and white film.  Sweet Daysies. 

Thinking of the story of that film brings to mind the story of Handel a friend wrote and shared during a Community Christmas Concert I participated in just after Thanksgiving. I'll quote part of it here as a final "liken" thought:

Seven Days of Christmas: Day 2

Day Two: Games and Giving

 The kids were so excited to open their games, they insisted we do it first thing in the morning instead of at night as I'd planned. Adam led us in a Christmas song and then shared the following before he headed to work. (Yes, I recorded it -glad I did, too!) 

"Today I took Ellie out to breakfast [for her birthday] and gave her a card with this scripture on it, D&C 88:11 'and the light which shineth which giveth you light is through Him who enlighteneth your eyes which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings.' I shared that with her because I have been very impressed with her example. She came first, so she sets the example and . . in her and in each one of you I see you take on the Light of Christ in a big way. You are very obedient, you love to mind, all of you are sensitive to the Spirit . . . and there is a certain light about you.  It is the most important thing, the most significant thing you can ever have in your life. Because if you don't have light, you have darkness . . . you have a dimness that you can see in a person. . . . I want you to notice that the tree is covered with light. There is symbolism in that. It glows with light. Happiness comes when we allow more light into our lives and the more you give, the more light you allow into your life."

Worked as a team to the end!
 This year the learning game was a wooden Sudoku board with a storage drawer. For the purely "fun" game, "Sliders" - a spin on "Sorry!" that's like a cross between bowling, darts, and Sorry. Nathan really enjoyed that he had to build the board and use his pliers to pull apart two playing pieces that came stuck together. My little engineer.  The "active" game was a badminton set that had a super big shuttlecock and large, padded rackets. Nathan and Ellie wanted to stay and create with their LEGOS and listen to their latest audiobook, so the little girls and I ventured out into the snow storm for errands badminton at our nearby recreation center.

 "Day of the Bells" at the library. Find and keep your own bell. Sweet!

After 20 minutes, Lizzy was tuckered out (and Norah was ever-ready to pose for a pic). I realized the girls hadn't eaten lunch yet - we'd been so busy with the games all morning . . . Lizzy had to crawl to the bench where we ate the snacks she was so famished :-). No drama in these girls!
 "Bounce Catch" is their favorite game to play together at the gym. We simply count how many times in a row the girls and I can bounce the ball and catch it without dropping it or letting it bounce more than once.  We got to 50 in a row this time, so I made things fancy: Single or double "Left-Right Bounce-Catch" and "Twirl-Catch." 

We'd spent long enough at the gym I felt ready to try getting home again (our first try we couldn't get up any of the hills to our neighborhood and almost got stuck). Slowly inching through our neighborhood, I was warmed by the sight of seeing many people on every street out shoveling their driveways. You mean there are actually people living in those homes? We have neighbors?!  Such a sight as real, living, breathing people out in their yards, talking to their neighbors, helping each other and playing - it had a strange and penetrating beauty about it. Gave me a craving to be out among them.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Seven Days of Christmas: Day 1

Last year, I wrote about a new tradition we'd began in my family doing the Seven Days of Christmas. 
The idea is that we have a theme each day and the presents given and experiences shared get less and less about ourselves and more and more about others and about Christ so that by Christmas, there is only stockings in the morning and family and Christmas stories and music and memories. It requires very little shopping, and only a little planning each morning. I'm loving it! It's my version of likening the meaning of Christmas to my family and life.

This year, I decided to take pictures and share how each day goes. Maybe you'll find ideas that inspire you to try this with your own family! Otherwise, it's a good old-fashioned blog designed to update my family across the country.

Day one's theme is "Treasure Hunt for Toys." This year was easy - every single one of my kids begged for LEGOS. Thanks to aunt Mary's donation, I could do double what I was planning for each child. Way to start the week off with a materialistic focus, right? ;-)

Treasure Hunt for Toys

Ready for the treasure hunt? YES!

Singing Silent Night to set the tone. . .

Then a video of Jesus' birth... (This one)

Then I told the kids to look at this table and find two things that will help them in their treasure hunt. 

They found a card on the Bible that read,
 You search for treasure, toys to be exact, but shepherds 2013 years ago looked to find something more valuable than gold - our Savior Jesus Christ. Find treasure if you must, but let the scriptures be your guide. In word and in letter you’ll spell out your treasure:
Luke 2:7
3-4, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 3-2, 13-1, 7-2, 20-5, 20-3, 21-2

_ _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ 

They set to work!