A Beautiful Mess of A Christmas

A volcano. That’s what erupted all over my house. Bits of papers are everywhere. Dishes are piled on the counters and the sink. Baby toys are all over the chairs and couch. What outfits? Are there any to wear whatsoever? Yep, there’s a cloudy with a chance of meatballs’ assurance that I will be wearing sweatpants to Matt’s grandma’s favorite family meal of the year… Christmas Eve.

The Christmas season began with turning on some of my favorite celebratory tunes while Matt hauled up the Christmas tree from the basement. That’s right… make way for the tree! Who needs a kitchen table anyway? We could do without for the holiday season while the Christmas tree commands its place. I was making gluten-free dairy-free soy-free (everything-free) left over Thanksgiving panini sandwiches and butternut squash curry soup as Matt put together the branches. The soup turned out so spicy that I am not sure my mother could have even stomached it. LeLe bounced away in her bouncer. Grandma Reba kept telling us that our silver star would never fit on top of the tree because the ceiling was too low. I told her “We always make it work.”

Silent night, holy night…

Decorating the house and the tree took me several installments of time, sandwiched between dirty diaper hauls up the stairs, nap times and grading final papers. With the tree ready for unveiling, we held the baby as she reached out her tiny hands to feel the fake pine needles. Oh well. Building nostalgic Christmas memories for baby doesn’t have to mean that everything has to be alive, fresh and organic. Maybe next year.

All is calm, all is bright…

I decided the best way to wrap my mind around all that needed to be done before Christmas was to hand-draw a map of events and all the food we needed to make with a piece of yellow pad paper. I hung it on one of our doors so that each time Matt asked what we were doing for the next few days, I could just point him to the schedule. Slowly we realized an anxiety building up inside. Even our carefully planned slimmed down Christmas month looked too busy. So we kept slashing plans out, trying to find a happy balance. We hosted baby days, baked, finished shopping for presents, planned elaborate meals for family gatherings and cleaned up small explosions around the house as we searched for missing items or wrapped gifts a little bit at a time.

Round yon virgin, mother and child…

Five days before Christmas, with gluten-free flour sprayed all over my head and clothes from baking, I wrestled a bucking bull of a headache. One hour later, I was curled up in bed (and on the bathroom floor) with the flu. Twenty-four hours disappeared from my life as I was quarantined to my room. Downstairs I could hear the baby bug chirping away her little kicking songs through my delirium. Matt hovered and cared for me, as our first Christmas plans with immediate family dissolved into body aches and pains. Then, it spread through most of Matt’s family. Slowly, our little yellow pad paper schedule became obsolete, especially as I realized how much of these traditions really could be flexible.

Holy infant so tender and mild…

Three days before Christmas, I was feeling much better but still quite house bound. We had already ditched Nana’s family Christmas celebration, Christmas service for church and we had to cancel Matt’s sister’s birthday party because she now had the flu. I finally sat down to finish the wrapping. As I was rushing around and preparing, LeLe was a little fussy. She didn’t seem entertained by any of the usual games or toys. Finally I laid her down on the floor next to me, and her eyes lit up. She grabbed the entire bag of bows and dumped them all over her body and then proceeded to fling them around as best as she could. For an hour she entertained herself with wrapping elements, wriggling around on the floor, happy to be in the middle of everything.

The next day, just when the stresses of to do lists all piled up again, Matt started to feel the flu bug come on. So I cancelled all of my plans to clean house and make elaborate dishes, and I picked up some chips at the grocery store for the family dinner my mom was preparing for us. The baby and I escaped and went to Memaw and Papa’s house for dinner with family from Cortez and Wyoming, while Matt checked in via text message from his curled up state on the bed at home. And really, LeLe was quite overwhelmed by all of the people at her first official Christmas celebration. She had several meltdowns and wasn’t really her normal social self at all. As I climbed into bed exhausted, the wind was howling around our house.

Sleep in heavenly peace…

That very wind (made into a tempest by my night-shadow infused imagination) woke both baby and I up at the same time several times over the course of the night. Finally, at 6 a.m., the baby sprawled out on my chest as we rocked in the glider, and her soft snores filled the room. Beautiful, sweet peace. We moved, and my heart pondered fragile tiny life. Really, it has been a long time since LeLe fell asleep on me. But here we were, her little stomach breathing in and out into my stomach. “God, wash my heart with peace. Make me new. Anchor me in real hope.” A simple, profound and quiet moment.

Sleep in heavenly peace…

At this point, I am not sure we will make it to any of the official Christmas celebrations. And at the risk of sounding corny, I must say that I won’t be mightily disappointed if this does occur. My heart knows peace. These past few weeks have shown me a few things about myself … I really have grown. Instead of getting entangled in the stresses and expectations of Christmas, I have been able to recognize that the people in our lives really make me the happiest. Over this past year, when I cried out to God to help me be more thankful and focus, He really has brought this to pass by slowly and deeply washing my heart over and over again. I still stress out and mess up, but may I ever feel deeply anchored and aware of my riches.

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Half-year flight to the moon and back: LeLe turns 6-months old!

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When your little hand grasps mine, and I see you trust me, I thrill to show you the world. Elleanna Joy, you fit our little family just perfectly, with all of your laughs, serious introspective moments and the way you fall asleep and gently snore in the moonlight as your car chariot takes you home to your castle bed.

This past month you learned how to jump in your jumper. Daddy and I escalate the excitement with our tribal dances as we circle the contraption to encourage you to jump more and more. You often just stare at us and grin, as if you are taking photos with your memory and tucking them away to make fun of us when you can finally find the words to express what you want to say. The first day you learned how to jump, we had some friends over for dinner. You were elated – company, jumping, yammies… you jumped and jumped and jumped until 9:30! We put you to bed and you finally fell asleep, but one hour later, you were up screaming. We tried everything… a bottle, a diaper change, some rocking. Finally I paced the floor with you and sang to you. You spread your arms across my chest and finally gave in. Oh sweet love, you were so tired, but I wouldn’t trade that surrender moment for anything in the world.

The beginning of November found you rolling onto your tummy and still quite angry about the situation. Many nights this month I jumped up to your cry in the middle of the night, you desperately needing to be flipped over because you couldn’t move from your tummy to your back. Just this week, though, you conquered! Now you roll any way and any direction, zig-zagging across the floor and in your crib. And when I come to get you for another day of play and love, you often awake from your slumber, grinning and happy on your tummy.

You are becoming the world-premiere expert on baby yoga. Every time we change your diaper, your feet are in your mouth (my, they must be tasty!). You also fly in superwoman poses with your belly on the ground and every other limb outstretched in motion…trying so hard to get somewhere…ANYWHERE would probably do! And often you simply fold in half as you are trying to sit up and longing to do so with all of your heart.

On Veterans day, we took your uncle Chad out to dinner to honor his service to our country. We were the last to arrive. We sat you down in your high chair and propped you up with our coats and blankets so that you could see everyone. You thoughtfully and slowly gazed around the table, offering each person a special smile and acknowledgment. We were stunned. Your heart is already so beautiful. You love people. We want to steward that in you.

Just this past week, as we were cuddling with the morning baba and reading, your eyes locked on the toy box. So I sat you down and you grabbed the ledge and then went fishing for a favorite toy. When you found it, you grabbed it, sat down and then began to shake and chew on the purple hippo. It is amazing how your little brain already has lots of preferences.

November found you with TWO hot springs visits!  The first weekend of the month we went to Mount Princeton in Buena Vista with Memaw and Papa. You kicked and kicked and kicked in the water and enjoyed the winter sunshine. The second trip, we took a pre-Thanksgiving soak with auntie Rachel in Hot Sulpher springs. You stayed in the pools with us for two hours, kicking and dancing (and even having a bottle).

On Thanksgiving day, when we arrived at grandma Zlaten’s house for the celebration, you were quite ready for a nap. I wasn’t sure how this would go. We set up your pack-and-play, you wowed the crowed with your sweet smiles and shy glances, and then I set up camp with you in a quiet back room. You fussed and fussed as I gave you a bottle. And then, as your eyes closed and your sweet long brown eyelashes brushed your cheeks, I felt the presence of God as your breathed and relaxed, safe in my arms. You are His gift to us.

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