December 31, 2008

when one door closes

There are so many things we wish for... hope for... dream about. Some happen, and others never come to pass... and we are left wanting. A door closed. As I reflect on the past year, what stands out most is the loss of my school job. I can honestly say that losing that job brought on a crisis of sorts... a crisis of faith. In my own eyes, it was the perfect fit... just right for my family. As the school year came to a close, so many people reminded me that when one door closes, another opens. I believed it... I trusted it... but I didn't want it. The tears, the wishing, the searching... for what I wanted. But as I wrote in my Christmas card this year... change also brings growth, adventure, and unexpected joy. Oh yes... it does. Where would I be? Right where I was... and there were other plans for this life of mine... other plans that were just waiting for change. So here I am... knowing that the plan in play is the right plan... the safe plan... the plan that is truly best for me, and my family. And it is His plan. Yes, when one door closes, another opens... and you have to take that first step, painful though it may be, to get through it. Maybe you won't see it at first... but time will tell... and His plan will unfold and there you will be... right where He wanted you... right where you needed to be. I am looking forward to what lies ahead... looking forward to a new year. There are many things I could choose to improve about myself, but resolutions aren't really me. But my hope for the new year... my prayer... is to be more open to God's plan... to not focus so much on my own. Because I have learned... that an open door is a beautiful thing.

December 30, 2008

his year to shine

My sweet boy celebrated his birthday today... twelve. I still have not figured out where the times goes. The day I finally held him in my arms was a day of absolute joy. Not knowing about boy "stuff" I was afraid to have a baby boy... but there he was... he stole my heart in those first moments, and this heart of mine will never be the same.
This past year has been an incredible growing year for Camden... and for us, as we have struggled along together and overcome. From struggling with schoolwork and ADD to honor roll and scholar bowl... crossing over into Boy Socuts... trying out for percussion and making it! I am so thankful for support along the way- and I am so thankful that our boy has come out shining!

Happy Birthday Camden...

you make me smile...
you make me laugh...
you make me love.
Happy Birthday.

December 25, 2008

i fell in love

Last night I fell in love... all over again. Last night my husband sang in church. I knew he had a solo... but I hadn't heard him practice... at all. And then the other night, finally, I heard his song. And, my heart swelled, and my eyes watered. The full richness of his voice and the song he sang... it was magnificent. I love his singing voice. Much like my daughter's, it seems to come from another place entirely... so unlike their speaking voices. I knew to pack my tissues... I would most likely need them... when I heard my love sing in the dimmly lit church... on Christmas Eve. The candles were flickering on the altar... tiny lights were twinkling behind the manger, like stars in the sky... and his voice was clear, and warm... it touched my heart. I am thankful for this man who shares his gift. I was not the only one with teary eyes...

December 24, 2008

i believe

I was first introduced to the Polar Express in my little hometown book shop... I was eighteen. Even then I knew it was quite a special story... a story about a little boy, a train, and the magic of Christmas... a story about believing. It is a story I knew I would share with my someday children. It is a story that I cannot read aloud without the tears choking my throat... because I believe in Santa. I believe in his joyful, loving spirit, I believe in his giving magic. I believe. Yes, even all of these years later I can still hear that sleigh bell ring. I hope that my children will always hear its sweet sound... that they will always believe in the spirit of Santa... the spirit that gives. Love, joy, and yes, gifts. How I do love that Santa chooses to give on the holiest night of the year! The night that we celebrate God's most perfect gift... baby Jesus... that He gave for all. I suppose I know that Santa's gifts only go to those on the Nice list... that he is watching and knows if we've been bad, or good. And my hope would be that my children will never make that Naughty list! But if they do... I know that does not dismiss them from God's list. Because God's gifts go to all who believe... His perfect gift of the manger is for all who simply believe. Yes, I believe.

in the nick of time

I almost forgot... to take the kids to see Santa. In the midst of celebrating the season and checking off lists, I almost forgot. Maybe in the back of my head I thought that they wouldn't want to go... but all of a sudden, it was important to me. When I asked Cam if he wanted to go and see Santa, he said Yes! with so much enthusiasm that I was thankful that the thought passed my way- because surely it would've been disastrous... when he finally remembered on Christmas Eve.
We have not been to visit Santa at the mall in years... for one reason or another, we have happened to be in Disney World, or in the nearby Disney MarketPlace, at some time during December... and we have had the chance to visit Santa there. This year, we headed to the mall. I was pleased that the line was not too long... and the wait was not too bad. It was just enough time for me to look into my daughter's eyes and say You will smile, and you will look like you are having fun... and then give her the Look a few more times. She didn't want to come. She didn't want her picture taken. She didn't want to sit on Santa's lap. But she would... Because I said so.
Just before our turn, the woman running the Santa Photos told me I would have to put my camera away... no photos on the set. I smiled sweetly, and said Okay and turned off the camera. But there was no way... NO WAY that I was going to not take my own pictures. I would buy one of her exorbitant packages, but I was certainly going to take my own photos as well. I was determined. She made me mad.
When it was finally our turn, Laura & Cam approached Santa with their smiles, and each headed to the side of Santa. Oh no... Santa was not going to accept that... and soon they were both perched on his lap... and I began snapping pictures on the sly. (I have had my camera taken away by security a few times before, so I was not really worried... they are my kids! And I figured, if I had to, I would call my husband the Deputy to get me out of jail. Yes, that is how serious I was about taking the pictures!) Once the Official Santa Photo had been taken, Santa got my kids talking... really talking. Especially Laura. I could see them just chatting away, holding up the line... But I loved it. He drew her back in... and her smile made me smile... made my heart feel light. Ahhh yes, the magic of Christmas.
I did get spoken to about using the camera again... but at that point I had taken a few good shots, and had captured a moment, or two. Because I had to be sneaky, I did miss a second try at a sweet shot of Cam and Santa having a heart to heart, but I am counting on another try... another year.

Just before bed, I remembered to asked Laura what she and Santa were talking about... Oh, I told him I wanted a friend for Scout (the cat.) He told me that he wasn't allowed to bring a real cat, but he told me all of the kinds they do have- ones that meow, ones that walk, ones that breathe up and down.... Oh yes... Thank you, Santa... for knowing just the way to reach this young lady. Thank you.

December 21, 2008

ready or not

Christmas is almost here... the to-do list is getting shorter... and the time is drawing near. Ready or not, Christmas is coming. I can see it in the dancing flames of the candles... I can hear it in the songs of the season.
I can feel it in my heart. Our church service today was beautiful. It was breathtaking, and heart-filling. As the first strains of the music began, I felt my heart tremble... and then felt the play of emotions across my face. And when Laura sang her solo, I was in awe of my own daughter, once again. Her voice clear, and lifted to Him... and full of love for the story... Away in a Manger. I am so thankful... for this story. Of all of the stories that we pass on to our children, and will someday pass on to our grandchildren, isn't this the greatest? And to be able to see it come alive, year after year... in the precious faces of children... and the emotions that swirl in our souls... it is a gift. A good and perfect gift.

I can only imagine what the shepherds were thinking on that night so very long ago... in a town so very far away... because every time I hear the story, share the story, see the story... I am overcome. I am overcome with love... with joy... with wonder. My heart is so ready... to receive this most precious gift God gives us, time and again. Merry Christmas...

December 19, 2008


Eating at my Grandma & Grandpa's house was always an event. Always. Stuffed shells on Sunday, served on green and white plates, and a crisp salad dressed with oil and vinegar. A buttery crisp pancake, made just for me. Vegetable soup, with oyster crackers, of course. Even a can of Chef Boyardee cheese ravioli. It was always special. For the most part, Grandpa was the chef... but not when it came to my favorite cookie. Those were made by Grandma... stored in a cardboard shirt box, lined with wax paper. My soft-pascottis... that is what I called them. The softest mound of cookie drizzled with white glaze, and colored nonpareil sprinkles. My favorite. I can't remember how often she made them... I just remember that when she did, it was the best day ever.

Two years ago I tried to duplicate them... with her recipe. I was filled with anticipation and could practically taste them as the scent drifted out from the oven. And when the timer finally sang its little song, my elation sank... the cookies had all run together. They were not the sweet little mounds I recalled. I was so sad... overwhelmingly so. I quickly cleaned up and moved on, choosing the pretend I had never even tried. For a while, I looked for the recipe online... realizing that they were probably called soft biscottis, not soft-pascottis, but I just wasn't ready to try again. Until now. I came across a recipe in a magazine, with a photo, and thought This might be it.

Waking at a ridiculously early hour, I decided that today I would try. Even as I documented the journey, I was cautious... with my anticipation... with my heart.

The flavors bring me right back to when I was little, and the excitement that filled me when I saw that Grandma was carrying that shirt box. Maybe the success is just a little sweeter knowing that I had failed along the way. And maybe that little Try, try again lesson is ringing inside. No matter what my head is saying, my heart is full...

December 17, 2008

home is...

Visitors sometimes want to know...Do you like living in Florida? Yes... but truly, I would be happy anywhere my family is. They are my home. It helps that we are not far from the waves that roll in and wash the shore... the waves that beckon- run, jump, laugh and play. They are my connection... between what is home, and what was home. The sound of the surf crashing in the distance is music to my heart. Returning to Scituate this weekend for much too short a visit, I was reminded that no matter where I hang my heart, I will always be a New England girl... fascinated by the nooks and crannies of the weathered homes- each one different than the rest... enjoying the burn of the cold wind on my cheeks... laughing at the unique weather- ice storms just miles north of a sixty degree breeze... loving the sound of the waves, and knowing the ocean is just around the bend.

...and no matter how far I travel, or how far I dream, my home will always be with my family. Returning home, full of wistful thoughts, it only took a moment to know... the moment I stepped into my husband's arms... the moment we gathered at the table for a devotion. Yes... home.

December 14, 2008

there is joy

In this third week of Advent the to-do list becomes long, and hurried. It is almost here... Christmas. I am trying to push aside the fleeting moments of panic and focus on the joy. Yes, there is much to do... much to prepare... and most of all, much to protect. My heart... that has prepared Him room... that searches for the simple everyday Christmas magic... that wants others to know the wonder of the manger. In this third week of Advent, I will not forget to seek the joy that comes at Christmas. There are still doors to open on the Advent calendars. There are still candles to light and songs to sing. There are still many items on my to-do list- but none more important than remembering the joy that comes brand new each year... in a little stable... in a little Baby.

some favorite bloggers....

December 10, 2008

me, interrupted

I was putting on a pair of earrings the other morning, and had a quick thought... These are the third pair I've worn this week- I think I'm me again! Silly, I know... but the Me I long to be cares about things like this... and about remembering birthdays, and sending cards, and having time for the ones I love. It is nice to know that I am back... but it does bring back memories from the last time I lost myself during what I call the Pre-School Years. Those years were wonderful for my kids... new discoveries, making friends, exploring the great wide world. But for me? I enjoyed their moments... their joys were my joys... their lives were what mine revolved around, and rightly so. But what did that leave for me? Not much energy... not much patience... and months between any moment with my husband more intimate than an obligatory kiss goodbye as he left for work. I loved staying home with my kids. I wanted to be there... and I enjoyed it... but along the way I lost Me. The Me that cared about sending a birthday card, or painting toe nails, or preparing a meal. During those years I think my husband carried his 100%, and half of mine. In the moment, you push on... perhaps taking a moment to sit behind a locked door, tears spilling into your hands, instead of walking out the door. Life just is, and you carry on the best you can... making time for friends with little ones, so that at least you know you are not alone. But looking back on it? It was hard... and messy... and I would never go back. Sure, I miss those tiny hands and feet... and experiencing, through new eyes, all of the wonderous things that little ones discover and learn. But as I see my sister going through this herself, all of the feelings of inadequacy tumble back around me, and my heart breaks for her. Watching her struggle, and juggle joy with frustration with weary eyes and soul is painful- and knowing I can't take it from her is worse. Everyday she has my prayers, my encouragement and my love... but I wish I could do more. I don't really think there is any way to skip over this phase though... the tough times and how we handle them become valuable lessons that we need for another day. I hope though, that one day soon my sister will catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror and think Oh, there you are! I thought I had lost you.

December 08, 2008

eight on eight (okay, maybe nine)

Suz made me cry today over her ornaments... really, I thought I'd only ever cry over my own! So, as an excuse to show off a few more memories, here I go! While I managed to get some great shots of my ornaments, it does show off how fake my tree is. Oh well... it looks pretty from across the room, and with an evergreen candle burning, it feels just like Christmas to me!

1. My Favorite
Truly, any ornament that one of my children has made for our tree is my "favorite." But maybe, my favorite store bought one is... Ice cream is my blood, I think.

2. The Oldest
This one should've made "favorite" status... but it is practically the oldest (since I already showed of my actual oldest in a prior post!) This was made by my Mom... she blew the egg and decoupaged my favorite little blue flowers. It used to get wrapped up in tin foil, and I remember that was how I knew how to find it.

3. The FunniestYou can't get much funnier than veggies dressed up as reindeer & Santa... unless you are singing right along with them in the car!

4. Most Memorable
That is hard... I don't want to hurt any feelings out there on the tree... but this is the one (two, since that other one snuck in the photo!) I am choosing. This panda is so special to me because of our Zoo proposal; and of course, the other one is there because I am his Beauty, and he is my Beast... we loved dancing to that song at our wedding.

5. The UgliestI made this, so it is okay that I am deeming it the ugliest. Please, this is not a current craft project, I was little... in Girl Scouts. The funny thing is, I made two, and they are both on the tree!

6. The ReddestLaura was just shy of a year old, and we stopped at Hershey Park on the way home to MA. Poor girl... she will never live it down, but we gave her a dollar, and she dropped it without us knowing. We bring it up and blame her, but what were we thinking giving her a dollar to begin with?? Regardless, we love this little sled, which also reminds us of Laura's first winter... and the little red sled we pulled her around the yard in.

7. The Greenest
Oh, the fabulous Rockettes! Need I say more?

8. The Tree Topper
We chose her as a family, at Bronner's in Michigan. Glorious!

Won't you join the fun?

the story of our life

Days of adventure. Moments of joy. Weeks of play. Sunshine and rain. They all add up to create the story of our life... the story that is uniquely ours... ours to tell, preserve, to carry on. These are the history books of our life... each one documenting a chapter of life and love... the twists and turns that tie us to those we love... the stories and memories and moments that have led us, one page at a time.
We also have a time capsule... Each year, we unroll layers of tissue and bubble wrap and relive the story of us.
Childhood treasures...
Hobbies past & present... trinkets that bring a vacation back to life.
And most of all, we recall the moments of where we began...
and how small these little hands used to be.

thank you, emily, for inspiring us to see our everyday moments in this season that can be chaos!

a new song

I love the Christmas music... all of it. Well, okay, maybe not the Barking Dogs Twelve Days of Christmas that my children are so fond of... but I like the fun songs, like I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas and the traditional songs, especially O Come All Ye Faithful. My favorite CD is Kenny Rogers, The Gift. I can't make it through Christmas without it! But my new favorite song this year is an Amy Grant song... a new one.
It's called I Need a Silent Night.
It speaks to my harried soul...
it keeps me moving...
towards Christmas...
the Christmas I want my children to know.

I've made this same mistake before too many malls too many stores
December traffic Christmas rush it breaks me til I push and shove

December comes then disappears faster and faster every year
Did my own Mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around trying to buy Christmas peace

I need a silent night a Holy night to hear an angel voice
Through the chaos and the noise I need a midnight clear
A little peace right here to end this crazy day with a silent night

December 07, 2008

preparing a way

He is coming...
Baby Jesus...
in the manger...
we are getting ready.
The second week of Advent... it hits, and you realize that the time is much shorter than you thought. But we are okay. Have we fallen short of our Advent goals? Of course, but maybe four nights out of seven is more than we have ever accomplished. And while my goals maybe be lofty to begin with, without them we may not have gotten around to even lighting the second candle on our table... we may not have sat down to read about the meaning of the Christmas tree... Laura would not have been able to tell me that the tree points up, to God... and Camden would not have thought to look at the branches that stretch outwards, like God's arms.
The second week of Advent...
is full of preparation.
He is coming...
and our hearts will be ready.

December 06, 2008

home safe & sound

It was snowing in Detroit today... how do I know? My Mom was there... and Bob... just passing through... on their way home... from Africa. I was waiting for them at the airport... standing as close to the gate as I dared... peering down the hallway, anxiously awaiting my first glimpse of my favorite travellers. And then, there was an arm... waving high above the crowd. I felt a rush in my heart, and right on down to my toes, as I leaped slightly, and waved back. More waving... sure that we have connected. And as Mom & Bob were closing the gap, my feet were bouncing ... wanting to run the rest of the distance, but knowing that to further approach security would be more than unwelcome. She looked beautiful... the quintessential traveller... her face sprinkled with sunshine... lovely silk scarf tied casually around her neck. Beautiful... and happy. And then finally, her arms were around me... Home. Safe and sound. Although my home is here, with my husband, there will always be a part of me that resides in my mother's arms... heart to heart... home.

December 05, 2008

a fact of my life

Long ago I realized something about myself... something that I know will never change, because it is part of who I am... part of what makes me me. I have stopped apologizing for it for just that reason. And when it happens out in public, I have learned to take it in stride... and not worry if someone is staring, or smirking. Because I just can't help it... I just can't stop the tears escape my heart and roll down my face. Happy tears, sad tears, tears of name them, I seem to have them.
Sometimes the tears are quite justified... the sad ones, I suppose. I have cried a million tears, or more, over missing my husband while he has been away on deployments. And over loved ones lost. Sobs have simply taken over my heart and my body until the voice of reason slips into my mind and quietly whispers What are you going to do, cry forever?
And I cry a lot at church... I don't usually even realize it until the rivers of salty tears have reached the corners of my mouth. It might be a song that speaks to my soul... or a sermon that seems just for me... or it might be that in His house, I have been stripped of all the protective layers of Me, so that I can best worship as the woman God intended me to be.
But the tears that are always closest to the surface are the tears of empathy, and the tears that love. When my eyes take in a scene from a movie, or from a Hallmark commercial (or worse yet, a Kodak commercial from back when they were selling film!) that celebrates life or in which a dream has been fulfilled, I can feel it... I can feel the happiness of the moment, as if it were my moment... and something catches in my throat, which pulls a string that is wrapped around my heart, which in turn, opens the flood gates that are my eyes. We were in a cold dark movie theatre- My Mom, Bob, and my sister- watching Cinderella... and how she could dream... how she could just keep on dreaming, never losing hope... Yes, it made me cry... and it made my Mom cry... and we have never lived it down. Bob & Tina just laugh... or shake their heads in confusion. But the story... it is real. How many times have I held onto a dream, never giving up? Whether the dream comes to fruition or not, we have put a lot of ourselves into that dream... and to never give up hope can take a lot out of you... and so to see a dream come true starts the tears bubbling up.
Crying, for me, is simply a way of my life. When teardrops fall, I know that my emotions are alive. Sometimes I can close my eyes, and breathe in, and hold my tears behind closed doors... and sometimes, it feels good to just let them roll. Because for me, I have learned that my well of tears come from great love... great love that spills up and over the boundaries of my heart... No, I wouldn't trade the love or the tears for anything- because I would be nothing, without love.

December 01, 2008

dinner conversation

My children have never been big conversationalists... never. What did you do at school today? Nothing. Was it fun? Yes. Did you read a story? Yes. And it goes on... like pulling teeth. I have learned, over the years, that if there is something I need to know, I need to make a phone call. Each of my children has a friend who knows it all (not the bad know-it-all way.) Since pre-school, if it sounded like there might be something going on that I maybe should find out about, I call Becky... and she asks Charlotte... and then I know. And on occasion, I have had to call Jenn, to find out from John what he & Cam were supposed to do. Of course, with the two of those boys, sometimes it is more like pieces to a puzzle, and we are hoping that maybe one has a few different pieces than the other... so maybe between the lot of us, we can come close to knowing what needs to be known. I have learned to live with it... and I have learned that eventually, they'll talk... they just have to be ready.
Last year, I received a fantastic gift... The Christmas Box of Questions. Stored in the festive round box, are little tidbits and questions that start stilted conversations, but evolve into stories and grand ideas and laughter... and love. We are trying to share one each night around the table. Last night's question led to the stories of our children's births... tonight's question shot us into the future with thoughts of how Christmas will be celebrated in 100 years. There was talk of robotic trees, and virtual trees... and hope. Hope that in 100 years, Christ will still be the center of it all.

November 30, 2008

let the adventure begin

Advent is my very favorite season... I know it is not a season season, but it is my favorite, nonetheless. I have had years when Christmas has gotten lost... not the meaning of Christmas, but the celebrations. I ran out of time... ran out of patience... ran out of joy. And when I realized that I was rushing through the very best part of the year, I had to readjust... change my perspective. Because Christmas is not all about the day... it is about the reason for the joy of the day... and I want my children to know the true meaning of Christmas. I don't want to barrel straight through December, losing Jesus in the frenzy of preparation. I don't want to miss the joy... the moments of wonder... I might be ready for Christmas, with all of my lists checked off, but will my heart be ready?
And so we celebrate Advent...
really celebrate it.
We celebrate with candles, and stories, and traditions...
We invite Jesus to be a part of it all...
... and when He comes, we'll be ready.

One of our favorite resources for celebrating Advent:
The Adventure of Christmas
by Lisa Whelchel
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