23 December 2010

Christmas Stuff

I've been thinking, all day, about Enough, and Too Much, and Not Enough.  Ann got me started on it with her Jesse Tree advent book, which finishes with the story of when she met her sponsored child in Guatemala.  I was hit between the eyes and struck dumb by her question:

"Why does the World hunger, when the people of God have bread?  Are Bread?"

Casting Crowns asks, "If we are the Body..." Why aren't we doing what Christ does?  Why aren't we reaching out to a hurting world?

I think the problem is, we're too focused on us, and our stuff.  There's so much that we "need", just have to have, and do we remember that we are some of the wealthiest people in the world?  Wandering through the mall, just looking for something to buy, dashing in to Wal-Mart for that thing we need right now, do we think about the children who will go to bed tonight hungry?  Katie asks, on her blog, that if you send a donation to support the work she's doing, please include your e-mail address so they don't have to mail the thank-you...because they can feed a child two meals, for the price of a stamp.  How many could be fed with the money I'm planning to spend on a new coffee table?

And today, the Yarn Harlot continued the theme, asking what is "enough"?

"The dictionary defines enough as "occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs or expectations."  Clearly, since we live in a house, eat when we are hungry, drink when we are thirsty, put on clothes when we are cold... obviously we have enough.  Enough of everything.  Where does it come from then, that feeling I have when I stand in a shop, holding a gift in my hand and thinking "Is this enough?" or I bake a hundred cookies, and then stand there surveying the lot and wondering "Is that enough?"

If we're defining enough as that definition above though- and thinking of fully meeting demands, needs or expectations - then I think I'm probably in a losing game.  Never mind my crazy ideas of a perfect Christmas or the expectations of others,  but what's a gift but an attempt to show the recipient that you love or care for them, and if that's what it is, am I ever going to be able to get them enough? Is there anything that I can put in Joe's stocking to show him fully and completely how much I appreciate him being married to me?  Can I ever buy enough presents to convey the depth of my love?  There will never be enough.  Never, and this year we swore to opt out of the craziness.  Trying to get enough, buy enough, make enough, get enough done - because it doesn't work anyway. It's never enough, you could buy or make everything, and all that would happen is that afterwards there would be a big mess, a bunch of exhausted people- all of whom are broke - and everyone then would have too much, just because you were trying to fill something that's a feeling with stuff." 

It's so easy, especially at this time of year, to forget how much we have, to lose sight of what is really enough.  Even though Christmas has looked a lot different around here this year, I think we've still lost track of this, a bit.  We've been moving slowly through Advent, not really doing a whole lot to "get ready" for Christmas.  I haven't done much baking, the decorating is pretty simple.  But we've been home, and together, and it's been good.  Even though we've bought more stuff than we needed, we've been focusing on the feelings, rather than the stuff.  It's a step in the right direction.

I'm thinking about a name for the next year, also on Ann's advice.  I'm thinking about enough, and what that looks like, and how to be satisfied.  I'll be back after Christmas with more on that.  Meanwhile, merry Christmas to you all.

21 December 2010

Over the Rainbow

I know, I know...Saturday was AGES ago, blogging-wise.  But I've been hard at work getting Christmas in the mail to family, so now that I've taken care of that, I'm back to blog-land.  And speaking of somewhere strange (and sometimes wonderful):  Last Saturday we returned to the Children's Museum to see a play based on the third Wizard of Oz book.  It was only 40 minutes long, and quite nice for something that attempted to cram a rather involved story into such a short time frame.  Monkey2 started crying about 15 minutes into it, and had to be taken out, but the boys enjoyed the whole thing.

Everyone wanted to say hello to Tik-Tok at the end, and wouldn't you know, he was the only major character that didn't come out to greet the audience!  But, Monkey3 got a high five from the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, so that was ok:

That's his hand in the corner; I was too slow with the camera.  Everyone got to ride the race car, since we didn't do that the last time we were there:

Monkey1 knows how it's done.  Monkey3 is along for the ride.

Monkey3 LOVES this car; it's definitely his style!

Monkey2 isn't so sure about this...
So, a good time was had by all.  And now, we're getting ready for Christmas!

15 December 2010

Unto us, a child

Many, many years ago, I flew half a world from my safe home, and learned what poverty looks like, for real.  I prayed before going "Lord, let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."

Reading Ann's words today, I remember the heat, the smells, the children clinging by a thread to hope, daily renewed by the work Compassion does.  I remember, tears running down my cheeks, the joyous smiles of children who know that they are loved, that their hope is not without reason.

And in this season when so many desire so much, I think of those who are happy each day for food for that day, a chance to learn, the hope of a better tomorrow.

Who will stand in the gap for them?  Who will make a difference, even just for one?

Will you?

14 December 2010

'Tis the Season to be Jolly

I had a doctor's appointment this morning in Carmel.  When they called to verify I was coming, I asked the receptionist how far a drive it was, to gauge what time I would need to leave my house.  She told me she really didn't know.

A really intelligent, has-it-all-together type mother would probably have googled the driving directions last night before she went to bed, and then set her alarm to ensure enough time this morning to get out the door without yelling at her children and leaving her hair wet.

I am not that person.

At ten 'til nine this morning, I sat down to google the driving directions, and discovered that Carmel is on THE OTHER SIDE OF INDIANAPOLIS, which is an hour away.  This is the piece of information the receptionist might have provided, which would have helped me to be a more organized person.  (Not that I'm holding her responsible.  I don't need help to be disorganized and late everywhere I go.  Or I should say, my children are all the help - and excuse - that I need.)

I needed an hour and fifteen minutes to get there.  I left at 9:20 for a 10:30 appointment.  I pulled in at 10:28.

(whistles quietly) Moving along...

 Then, since we were going through Indianapolis to get home (a piece of information that might have helped me plan my day better...did I mention that already?) I decided we might as well stop at The Children's Museum for the afternoon.  So we hit Chick-Fil-A for lunch, drove through the Historic District, and went to play.  The museum is all decorated for Christmas:

I love Christmas decorations!  Monkey1 got to dress up like a Polar Bear, including:

Black Skin (for greatest warmth)

He also got claws, ears, and a tail.  My favourite part was the tail:

Monkey3 decided he looked fuzzy.  Monkey1's favourite part was the claws:

  I really can't take them anywhere.  

We visited the Winter Wonderland exhibit.  Monkey1 (who never EVER holds still for a picture, for me) asked a total stranger to take his picture in the ice castle.  She was photographing her daughter, and he leaned over and posed so nicely for her!  I couldn't believe it!  But she's going to send me a copy, so that's ok.  I'm glad I had my "mommy cards" on me.  It's much easier than searching for paper and pen to give someone your contact info.  (That's a tip.)

We tried the ice skating, and Monkey2 did a bit of ice fishing:

We tried out the Yule Slide on our way down to the Planetarium.

Monkey3 raced me down and beat me with great delight.  Then he was very upset that we didn't get to see Big Biwd and Ewmo, but was slightly mollified when I let him nurse through the program.  The planetarium was nearly empty, so no one was around to be offended.  We learned all about ancient solstice celebrations, Hannukah, Saturnalia, and how astronomers try to figure out what the Wise Men actually saw.  Also when some historians think that Jesus might actually have been born.  All in all, it was a fascinating program, but quite long.  I was pleasantly surprised when Monkey1 told me he had really enjoyed it.

After that, we drove home and stopped at our hometown Chick-Fil-A for milkshakes, to buy me time to make supper.  It was a very fun day, and I was thrilled to discover that we all enjoyed it, and I had basically no bad attitudes or issues to deal with the whole time.  Wish me many more like this!

13 December 2010

What I'm trying to say is...

I got a call from our internet provider today.  They used to call and ask for my father, because he's the one who actually pays for our internet.  Recently, for no apparent reason, they've been asking for my mother.  Last time, I said "That's my mother.  Can I help you?"  Which I realized later didn't translate into "She doesn't live here."

Today I was more specific.  I said "That's my mother.  She doesn't live here.  Can I help you?"  The person on the other end said "Do you make the decisions regarding internet?"  And I replied "No, my father pays for our internet, as a gift."

And I thought that would fix it.  I mean, I had just informed her that the person with the money not only wasn't available, but didn't even live in the same house.  Why would she want to talk to me?  But no, she continued "Oh, well, do you get your phone and cable through us too?"  And I said "No, we don't have cable, because we don't have a t.v."

Which really should have ended the conversation.  What more could a company that provides technological services possibly have to say to someone who doesn't actually own a television?  (We actually do have a t.v, but it's not digital, and we only use it to watch movies.  It doesn't even pick up the local stations, so I didn't feel like I was really lying.  As far as they're concerned, we don't have a t.v.)

But no, she continued with "Oh, well you really should look into it, because if we provide internet, phone, and cable, you can have all three for just $99/month, and it could save you a lot of money!"

To which I replied "But we don't have a television, so we really don't need cable."

Now, I have a few questions about this whole conversation.  Why does "I don't make the decisions" mean that I get the sales pitch anyway?  Would they give it to my six-year-old, if he answered and I wasn't available?  And why does "I don't have a t.v." result in "You should really think about adding cable!"

As it turns out, she may be right.  A woman at Knit Night tonight told me that they actually do get a package deal from this company for both internet and cable, because it's cheaper than just cable alone, despite the fact that they, also, do not have a television.  Maybe my dad can look into that - it could save some money.  :-)

10 December 2010

Spreading Christmas Cheer...and sprinkles...and frosting

Today we had a play date scheduled, but my friend ended up having to cancel. For compensation, I told the monkeys we'd build their gingerbread houses. They received these for St. Nicholas Day, and have been dying to put them together ever since.

This is a completely acurate picture of how Monkey3 spent the entire project...sticking candy in his mouth at every opportunity.  I kept saying "NO!  Leave it alone 'til we're finished and I can take a picture!"  This is his house at the end:

The roof was originally covered with mini-gumdrops.  He had started picking off the frosting by the time I finished the path across the front.  All in all, however, I think it turned out quite well:

We used the kit for the houses, plus a large bag of m&ms we had lying around.  Then I outlined the path, and we filled it in with a jar of sugar sprinkles.  Each person was responsible for their own house (but I handled the frosting, for the most part).  Monkey2 crammed her roof as full as she could - I finally had to make her stop when she started crying because the m&ms were falling off for lack of space:

Monkey1 also did a lovely job:

I decorated both mine, and one for The Mad Scientist.  I was pretty sure he wouldn't mind missing out on the mess fun.  Monkey1 said I MUST show you this:

because it is "unreal".  It's the word of the day.

Now I'm off to do laundry, while Monkey3 sleeps, and before I get high on the fumes from the coconut.  Wow, does that stuff pack a punch!

01 December 2010

First Snow

Home from Thanksgiving travel, and today, December first, we have our first snow of the year. So, school is on hold for a bit, while the children monkeys go out to play.

We had a wonderful time visiting with family, and the monkeys loved playing with their cousins. Did I mention that I totalled our poor mini-van a few weeks ago? We were sitting at a stop light, and I turned my head to say something to Monkey1, and rear-ended the Jeep in front of me. Completely crumpled the front of my car. So we've been driving borrowed vehicles for the last few weeks. The Mad Scientist's brother loaned us his extended-cab pick-up truck. That was interesting. You know, all the spaciousness and comfort of a Very Small Car, with the driveability (and ease of parking) of...well, a pick-up. The worst of both worlds, but beggars can't be choosers.

We rented a car to drive to PA, and that was very interesting. There was a Honda Civic waiting for us at the other end, and I have to say, we fit more stuff (everything we packed, plus three bags of hand-me-down clothes from my sister-in-law's girls) in the Civic than we could get in the SUV we rented for the drive out. Confirming my suspicions that SUVs are really just kind of silly, as vehicles go. I mean, they're huge, they suck gas like there's no tomorrow, and they don't have any more space than a little car...just a bit more head room. Funny story: I borrowed a car from a friend to get to an appointment after my brother-in-law needed his truck back. It was a little one, quite low to the ground (no, I don't know what it was), and when we pulled up at the office and all got out, Monkey1 looked at the driver's seat and said "It must feel like your bum is dragging on the ground, when you drive this car!" :-)

Driving back in the Civic was fine. I'm a big fan of older cars. You know, where the windows don't stop working, because they work on a crank thing you turn, rather than a button. (Total aside: Can you imagine how terrified I was to climb into our rental and see, on the console, a small sign stating "Powered by Microsoft." NOT what I want to see in my vehicle!!) And the locks don't go down automatically at 15 mph, so you have to remember to unlock the doors before you can get out. (Because everyone knows that, in an emergency, unlocking the doors is going to be the first thing I think of as I'm ripping the door off to get out of the car.) Better yet, the new car is a standard. I think I may be in love.

Funny story the second: We were driving home and suddenly, completely out of the blue with no preface whatsoever, Monkey1 looked at me and said "I bet that, if a Sperm Whale knew how to play checkers, he could beat you at checkers." And I replied "Excuse me? Why do you think that?" "Because his brain is so wrinkly, he would be really smart, and good at checkers" he replied. Oh, naturally. I think about those sorts of things, too, while I'm driving down the highway going 70. How wrinkly a Sperm Whale's brain is.