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Monday, December 31, 2012

Moody Monday - New Year's Eve

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It's been a fun week indeed and the fun continues with family visiting for another few days.  I'm so grateful for family and connections that last a lifetime.  We traveled through a blizzard to be with our far-flung family and brought some back with us.  The days there were too short, and it will be far too long till we can return. Sigh.

2012 was a fantastic year!  There were ups and downs, as always in this life, but it has been a joyful year for me.  I'm looking forward to 2013, and I have plans and hopes ... but I've really learned that there is no way to predict how it may turn out.  There is such a fine balance between planning/preparation and waiting on the Lord to see how things will unfold. 

I was very optimistic about the start of 2012, I feel a bit more uncertain and hesitant about 2013 - I can't explain why, just my gut feeling.  But I'm not worried or anxious.  God has been so good to me.

I hope your year and your perspective are hopeful and open to possibility.  I'll be ringing in the year with games and chili - what about you?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Moody Monday - Christmas Eve

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All is calm and quiet at my house this Christmas Eve.  My children have been visiting with their Daddy and won't be home until Christmas evening.  The weekend felt long and I was missing them terribly.  My children are too young to have their own phones and getting in touch with them can be challenging at times.  But today I'm excited with the anticipation of their arrival tomorrow evening.

There are three piles of trinkets and candle to fill three stockings.  We are blessed with many presents under our tree and food to feed us and more.  It is easy for me to get discouraged trying to create the 'perfect' holiday and failing.  A divided holiday highlights the disparity between what is and what should be.  But more than ever, I'm reminded that this is why we have Christmas in the first place...because we needed God to come to us

We can never get it right on our own, no matter how perfect the holiday cards appear.

May your Christmas hold surprising peace, joys which are are the dearest treasures and meaning that touches your heart.  When the gap between what is and what shoud be become clear, I pray we turn to Christ as the one who makes it alright.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Home Alone at Christmastime - Or Not

Several of my close friends are dealing with their first holiday season post separaton or divorce. It is hard. There is no way to avoid the changes and broken pieces of a family divided. It's time to let go of the expectations for a perfect Christmas. We can’t detour around this brokenness. The only way out is to walk right through. During the holidays the shroud of change can feel especially dark. It will take years before there is a new normal: years with new memories and people to share with. A long time from now, the way things used to be will feel like a lifetime ago. Pain will no longer tinge the sweetness of the memories. But the only way to get to that place is to trudge forward, create another way and new traditions now.

As a single parent, I feel a lot of pressure to "put on" the perfect holiday. We don't want our children to miss anything because of our own relationship shortcomings. It's easy to overindulge, overspend and overschedule. For me, it is important to acknowledge that it just isn't going to be the way it was, but will still be a meaningful and memorable time. Most importantly, have a plan! Be flexible, but know what the day will be like.

Take time to consider:
  • Will you be without your children Christmas morning? It's natural to feel blue and lonely, but make a plan so it's not completely miserable. Join another family, meet up with your relatives, volunteer somewhere. Sleep in!
  • Will the children be leaving midway through the day? Again, this can be a lonely point so make a plan! Lots of theatres are open Christmas evening, go see a new release, gather with another friend or travel to visit someone you haven't seen in a while.
  • Are you prepared? Be sure to have on hand all you need for stockings, meals and incidentals that may come up. When you're the only adult, you have to think and plan ahead. Get those gifts wrapped and don't stay up till 2 am Christmas morning doing last minute things. You want to be rested and ready for the fun!
  • Do you need reinforcements? This is a good time to call on grandparents, aunts uncles or other close family and friends to join you for the fun. I always feel like more people make for more festive holidays.
  • Make the best of it! Whether your children are coming or going on Christmas Day, prioritize what is important to you. Read the books, bake the cookies, eat the feast, hang the stockings. Pass along the traditions you want your children to cherish. You can do this!
Remember what you love about the season and focus on the joys. It's alright if you have a meltdown as you adjust to this new way of doing things. Perhaps you have been single for years and you've already reached the place of "New Normal" - lucky you! Last year I struggled greatly with the disconnect between what was supposed to be and what actually happened in my life. Acknowledging that was part of my healing journey, so let yourself grieve when necessary.

Share with us if you have any fun tips, special traditions or exciting plans that will help make this Christmas a great one. I'd love to know what you're dreading, too! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And They're Off...

I do think it is the hardest part of separated families ... the division at holiday times.  The schedules just get complicated and it is always harder for the parent without the children, especially on Christmas morning.  It feels impossible that it is normal to be without your children on Christmas morning.  But this is normal, for some years anyway.  Yuck.

My children are gone for a week and will arrive home on Christmas evening.  Then we leave the very next day to a long-distance trip.  Somehow, I will squeeze in gifts and a special meal, unpacking from a week with Dad then packing for a trip to visit the family along with making up for lost time with my littles.  I think it's going to be a little crazy.  But crazy is worth it sometimes, especially when the family lives so far away and occassions to visit are few.

Here are some thoughts to remember when things aren't exactly the way you wish at Christmas time -
  1. Remember that it's not all about you.  There are going to be some years that are easier than others.  Your children will reflect your attitude about the season so give them the gift of a positive spirit, of knowing you'll be okay while they spend time with their other parent.  They certainly don't need to feel responsible for your Christmas cheer.
  2. Remember all the loads of laundry you have folded and put away while the children were tucked in bed?  Rember the meals for which you shopped, cooked and cleaned?  the lunchs packed every. single. night?  the ever-cluttered floors, the crumbs all over the tile, the toothpaste encrusted counters?  Remember when you longed for a few hours when the world stopped and you could just catch up?  This is it!  When you vacuum, it will be clean for a few days.  The hampers will stay empty and the dishwasher won't be needed.  I know you need break, even if you don't want to admit it.  Look for the blessing, even when it comes at a cost.
  3. No need to compete.  It's hard to avoid the materialism of this time of year.  Yet more than ever I see how my children are learning to love giving and experiences together more than things.  Keep your traditions and add new ones for new ages and interests.  Time together will be remembered more than anything under the tree.  If the other parent is getting them an amazing gift, be glad, but don't try to outdo it.  This is hard, but it is important.
  4. Reach out - you won't be the only one doing Christmas differently this year.  Have some friends over, go to the mall, visit a museum, attend the Christmas Eve service, embrace other family members.  It's alright to just be sad, but try not to let that define your holiday.
I hope your holiday season reflects the truth that God came near to us because we need Him so greatly.  Christmas is more than just a day, so take every chance that you have to celebrate the Light of the World and the Love you share with others.  I'm so thankful for this place to share - please share some of your holiday treasures, traditions, losses and hopes.  I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


It's Tuesday now, but I wanted to remember yesterday - the Monday after twenty first graders were killed in their classrooms in Newtown, CT.  I have a first grader.  She is exhuberant, joyful, sassy, kind and social.  She likes to tell her brothers how things are to be done and she is excited about anything crafty. 

I'm quite certain that many of were extra prayerful and thankful as we dropped our children at elementary schools today. My heart hurts for those parents that have forever changed morning routines. 

First grade is still such the epitome of childhood innocence.  First graders can be ornery, but most don't really know evil yet.  They aren't aware of how broken our world.  My heart hurts for all the children who saw and heard things that I won't have to deal with, they are forever changed from the carefree children who were dropped off for school Friday morning. 

My first grader doesn't know much about the evil in this world, mostly because I've sheltered her from it in every way that I possibly can.  But I know that this control is just an illusion and that in time she will be exposed to pain, meanness, deceit and plain evil.  It is because of this evil that we need God.  Because of the pain we need a Savior.  Because on our own, we deteriorate to selfishness and twisted thinking and Christmas is for this - God entering our broken world to deliver the light that heals.

I pray for all the families affected and in some way that is all of us.  But my heart especially prays for the mamas this week.  Mothers of the young and the older, all of whom love their children a bit more each day.  And I'm squeezing all of mine a little tighter, making sure they never doubt how fierce is my love for each one of them.

I know you're doing the same.  Are you talking about the tragedy with your children?  Can you help but imagine if you were in their shoes?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Decorating with Children

I love classic, elegant Christmas decorations.  But the reality is that I live with three little ones who love colorful, bold, animated style.  Because it is their home, too - I want to include them.  Here are some ideas of how to do that!

First of all - Let them get their hands on the tree!  It doesn't matter if the ornaments aren't equally balanced or there are silly ones right up front.  Your child will love seeing reminders of things they love on the tree and will feel valuable by being included.  I have one friend who has two trees (children's tree and formal tree), but we don't have the room.  My solution has been to just have breakables on the very upper portion, but this year my children are older and I got brave!  We have glass ornaments all up and down the tree!
Our tree this year, sans colored lights.
My children adore colorful lights.  On my artificial, pre-lit tree, we only have white lights.  So in the past I have added several cords of the old style opaque colored bulbs.  This year, they got the ornaments on the tree before I had a chance to add them ... so we put the colored lights on an evergreen by our front door.  Score for me - only white lights indoors...and I do lots of them: on the china cabinet, over the television, any place I can.  I will always link the white sparkle of lights to the magic feeling.

Several years ago, someone gave us this obnoxious delightful dancing snowman.  I hate it.  But it causes squesls and laughter so every year I put new batteries in it and place it where they can press the button at will.  Whenever the children hear "Jingle Bell Rock," they call it the dancing penguin song.

Between church, school and home, we have tons of Christmas crafts.  I create a space for these to be shown in the kitchen and we also send them to family who live out of state.  The love to see their treasures on display!  When we put together our gingerbread house, I leave it out as decoration ... they have most of the candy picked off and eaten by Christmas Day. 

Our houses get prettier each year!
Another easy way to keep the children involved in Christmas is to play out the Christmas story.  We have the Fisher Price Little People nativity set and sometimes they get to play with our breakable set under supervision.
I still get to have my grown-up decorations that are less flashy and more classic.  And I'm sure as they children get older we'll have fewer brash accessories.  For now, I love seeing their smiles and fun!  It's worth a little tackiness to make memories.
Is there anything you put out at Christmas only for the sake of your child?  Do you have a personal decorating style for the holidays?  I loved this winter woodland tree which I think would make moms and children happy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Moody Monday

After a beautiful weekend with crazy, unseasonably warm temperatures, a cold-front is rolling in bringing damp, freezing air.  My weekend was full and I'm well on my way to finishing Santa's list.  It's been fun to hear what the children request this year...cable commercials have expanded their options!
I had one of those difficult single mom moments when their Daddy and his date picked up my three children and they went on an activity we used to do as a family.  It's always hard to feel 'left out' when things like that happen.  I am grateful that the children had a fun evening.
When they came back home, we donned the Christmas Spirit enjoyed festivities of our own: lights, Santa, a pageant, lunch dowtown, it was a big weekend!
This will be our "busy" Christmas week with activities that include a field trip, Christmas parties, guests at our home, traditional baking and more!  We'll enjoy every minute.