Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas magic

Dear Stanger family,
            On behalf of my whole team here at the North Pole, I would like to thank you sincerely for the use of your lawn reindeer.  A little over a week ago, Donner was stricken with a nasty case of Caribou Flu.  It just so happened that on this very day, one of my special elf helpers was visiting the Shelley area.  He was on a secret mission to monitor the behavior of the students of Sunrise Elementary while they were in their classrooms.  As he exited the school, he noticed two white reindeer on the lawn across the street, which was, of course, your lawn.  Knowing of the situation with Donner, he called me on my Santa cell.  I authorized him to use a pinch of North Pole powder, and together, elf and reindeer flew back to my workshop.  Over the next week, we trained your reindeer, whom we have affectionately named Donner 2.0, in the art of team sleigh pulling.  He proved invaluable during our deliveries last night.  So, I now return him to you with my thanks.  I knew a wonderful family such as yourselves would understand.  Donner is on the mend, and hopefully our whole team will be healthy enough to fly next Christmas Eve.  Have a very Merry Christmas, and enjoy your presents.  But, more importantly, enjoy one another.  Remember the most valuable gift of Christmas is being surrounded by those you love.  Also, never forget the true reason for this blessed season; the Babe of Bethlehem. 
God Bless,
Santa K. Claus
     Here is the letter I came up with.  If you read my last post, you will know that one of our lawn reindeer was stolen, and I concocted a story about Santa "borrowing" our reindeer for his sleigh team.  The kids will find this letter tomorrow morning by Santa's empty cookie plate, upon the return of our deer.  There is so much bad in the world right now, I think maybe once in a while it could use a little more magic, especially where kids and Christmas are involved.  Merry Christmas, and may that little spark of magic that lives somewhere in each of us never be extinguished.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Everlasting Light

     As evidenced by the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary last Friday, we are living in dark times.  I know I was one of thousands of parents who, with red, puffy eyes, questioned the safety of my own children as they sat in their classrooms that day.  Our hearts grieved as flags were lowered to half mast, and, as advised by a visibly heart stricken President Obama, we hugged our children a little tighter and a little longer that night.  We wished there was something we could do to ease the unimaginable pain of those grieving parents in Connecticut, but we knew there was nothing.  For my part, I felt heartbroken, hopeless, and despondent.  In the wake of this wave of grief and shock which had swept the nation, my own kindergartner returned home from school.  I think I hugged him for about ten minutes as tears flowed freely.  Of course, children are very perceptive, and he knew that something was wrong.  I explained to him, with as little detail as possible, the tragedy that had occurred that morning.  We ate lunch and he asked if he could play in the front yard for a bit.  A few moments after going out, he came back through the front door looking very anxious.  "Mom", he said, "one of our reindeer is missing."  I looked out the window and sure enough, one of our two lighted lawn reindeer was nowhere to be seen.  "Did that bad man who killed all those people steal our reindeer too?", he asked.  In his youthful innocence, my sweet boy simply took one very tragic and horrific event and one minor lawn theft and linked them to the same villain.  It was too much.  I would not have my precious son's faith in human goodness thwarted by both an evil psychopath and a thieving Grinch.  So, as any good parent would, I made up a story.  I told him that one of Santa's reindeer was probably sick, as the reindeer flu had been rampant this year.  I explained that I was fairly certain that Santa had sprinkled some magic North Pole dust on our reindeer and borrowed him for his sleigh team.  Now, instead of being discouraged, confused and scared at the world being full of bad and mean people, his eyes lit up with excitement at the prospect of our very own lawn reindeer flying with Santa's team.  Of course, the consequence of my imaginative solution is that I now have to go out and buy another reindeer with our extinct Christmas budget, place it in our yard on Christmas Eve, and leave a typed letter from Santa thanking us for the use of our reindeer.  But, if it brings a little bit of hope and excitement back into my children's lives, it will be more than worth the effort.
     I can think of another very dark time in the world's history.  It was a time rife with wars and rumors of wars.  For many, it was a time of oppression, poverty and fear.  It was a time when a vicious and evil ruler murdered innocent children, amid many other atrocities.  Then, one exceptionally bright Spring night, Hope came to the world in the form of a tiny baby.  Emmanuel rested in a lowly manger, as most of the world slept on, quietly unaware that the world as they knew it had just been reborn.  In that humble stable, wrapped in swaddling bands, lay the hope of all the ages, Love incarnate.  God is love.  God is hope. God is light.  The gift of His Son as Savior was His perfect love made manifest.  Thirty three years later, evil men crucified the Son of God.  What those men could not have known at the time was that by their cruel and evil actions, they allowed hope to shine ever more brightly.  Three days later, on a bright Spring morning, the bands of death were forever broken by the One who had been wrapped in swaddling bands on a chill Spring night three decades before.
     There will always be darkness and evil in the world.  There will always be people who do mean and petty things, as well as people who commit unthinkable acts of cruelty and violence.  But as long as we remember to look to the Light, and to share that light within us, the darkness will not win.  When we act with love and hope, God is there, piercing the darkness with an everlasting light.  When we comfort a grieving child, God is there.  When we visit a lonely widow, God is there.  Even in the midst of bleakest despair, teachers sacrificed their own lives to save their students.  God was there.  Though the families of those lost in the Sandy Hook shooting will have many dark days ahead of them, the darkness has not won.  This Christmas, I hope and pray that we will all let our lights shine a little more brightly.  We cannot undo the tragedies which have occurred.  We cannot make them right.  And we will never be able to make sense of senseless violence.  But we can be a little kinder.  We can press on with hope, allowing faith to replace our fear, allowing love to replace our despair.

O, Little Town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.

Yet, in thy dark streets shineth
The Everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

     And to the angels of Sandy Hook: May you sleep in Heavenly peace.

Friday, December 7, 2012

For Better or For Worse

     Right now I should be reclining in a chair as a stream of warm water and a pair of practiced hands massage my scalp.  I should be saying goodbye to split ends as my mane prepares to be refreshed by a healthy trim and a fresh set of highlights to cover up my three inch dark roots.  But I am not.  Instead, I am sitting here, on my old computer (the one I haven't used for at least a year- the one that takes half an hour to boot up), staring out the same window at the same gray sky I have stared at for three days now.  This will be the third day my son will be staying home from school with a particularly nasty stomach flu.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure of playing nurse to a child with the stomach flu, let me enlighten you.  The past three days and nights have become a blur of various bodily functions, more Scooby Doo episodes than I ever previously realized existed, baths, sheet changes, clothing changes, nose wiping, bum wiping, Clorox wiping, nose plugging, dry heaving, wall-staring, mind-numbing, putting in three new Scentys a day, sleepless, temperature taking, floor pacing, internal screaming, appointment canceling exhaustion.  It's like Groundhog's Day with vomit.  It started Tuesday night.  My son came upstairs and he had that look.  You know the one; the one that sets your mind racing as to whether it would be quicker to scoop him up in your arms and run to the toilet or to dig through the cupboards for a "throw up bowl".  I went with the latter and was about two seconds and one very unpleasant mess too late.  Out came the paper towels, tissues, Swiffer, Clorox Wipes.  I sent Hyrum to the couch with blanket, pillow and throw up bowl and inhaled deeply; one long, deep, rejuvanating sigh......the calm before the storm.  I didn't realize at the time just how long this particular storm would last.  More often than not, the kids tend to pass a stomach bug through their system in about twenty-four hours.  So, I stood in the kitchen on the night of the first throw up hopefully naive: "He'll miss school tomorrow, but what's one day of kindergarten make up work?  He'll be up and running circles around me by tomorrow night."  Here we sit, three vomit filled days later, as I type and Hyrum stares at nothing in particular with that same vacant expression that has covered his face for days now.  Hyrum chose to get dressed today.  I am hoping that is a good sign.  I however, did not.  I think these pajamas may actually become permanently fused to my body if I don't take them off soon.  At least they're my favorite pair.  I suppose they will be a suitable choice to wear to the mental hospital, which is where I will certainly be headed after many more days of this.  If it weren't for my mom calling to check in occasionally, I would have entirely forgotten what it's like to have an adult conversation.  When my daughter went through her eight months of "colic" (yes, the doctors still tried to pawn it off as that because none of them knew why she cried twleve hours a day), Oprah and Ellen became my best friends.  I believe at one point I actually began having conversations with them through the television screen.  Not even my two dearest day time friends have been able to salvage my sanity this time.  As a sick kid, Hyrum gets the trump card when it comes to tv viewing......we only have one tv.  I will tell you right now that Scooby Doo does not have nearly as many soul-afirming words of advice to offer as does Oprah, and he's not near as funny as Ellen.  Normally, I would put in a movie on our computer ( I have a Netflix copy of Jane Eyre I've been dying to watch for days) and indulge upstairs while Hyrum watched the twentieth installment of Land Before Time downstairs.  But alas, a few days before the puke invasion, monster broke the charge cord for our new computer.  I suppose I could attempt to watch a movie on this dinosaur, if I wanted to watch it in five minute stalled increments while this decrepit excuse for a computer attempted to load it.  I would clean to pass the time, but what would be the point in that?  Cleaning while there is a sick kid in the house is like trying to paint a fence in a downpour.  I would read, but currently by brain is a little too numb, not to mention, every time I pick up a book, monster is on my lap within two seconds with a bright red board book, and instead of reading about romantic interludes in the sweeping English moors, I end up reading about "red ball" and "brown bear".  I would shower, but how clean do I really need to be to clean up puke and well.....other things......we'll call them "brown bears" to avoid sickening the faint of stomach?  What was there to do but blog and moan?  Which is what brings me to my current state; sitting on our broken dining room chair, old, nearly dead computer resting atop dinged and scarred table, looking at the crack of gray sky through our sun faded curtains......have you ever noticed that after days of being trapped inside, everything in your house seems exceptionally dirty and dingy?  Perhaps to pass the time today, I could make a game of counting the dents in the table or the stains in the carpet.......scuffs on the wall.......chips in the paint.......I have to admit, this writing is most theraputic.  With this post alone, I have just come up with four new ways to pass the time today.  If you think of any more, please send them my way.  Crying is always a good one, but I already did that yesterday, and it only took up a dissapointing ten minutes. 
    In many marriage ceremonies, the words "for better or for worse" are spoken as teary eyed couples profess their love and commitment through the exchange of vows.  When a baby joins a family, there are no vows spoken aloud.  Just a quick spank, a red-faced wail and a trip to the tiny tub.  The moment that little screamer is placed in your arms, the second their squinting blinking eyes meet yours, a thousand unspoken vows pass between you.  In that moment, though you may not realize it at the time, you vow to stay up for countless nights inventing new ways of calming colic that would seem crazy to the sane world.  You vow to clean up bodily functions which before you wouldn't have touched with a fifty foot pole.  You vow to read the same book a thousand times and spend half the day looking for the favorite binky.  You vow to kiss away boo-boos and sing away night time monsters under beds.  You vow to laugh at the same knock-knock joke (which wasn't funny to begin with) every time you hear it and to praise each new drawing as if it belonged in the Louvre.  In short, you vowed to love that tiny person for better or for worse. 
     A few days ago, the day before the flu bug bit Hyrum, to be exact, I took the boys to the City Park while Morgan was at cheer practice.  The city of Shelley puts up a marvelous Christmas light display, complete with a gigantic "Happy Holidays" made of red tinsel and lit with red lights and a Christmas tree made of light strands attached to a telephone pole.  I watched my boys, with red noses and marshmallow coats as they ran from one display of lights to the next, so excited to see up close what they had admired so many nights from afar.  Something about that simple moment sank deep into my soul.  I wanted to freeze the moment.  It was a perfect picture of youthful delight.  It was one of the better days.  As we walked through the frozen grass toward our car, I happened to see a single red Christmas bulb that must have fallen off the giant Happy Holidays sign.  Without a second thought, I picked it up and put it in my coat pocket; a tangible reminder of a simply perfect moment.  I guess it's good to have those tangible reminders on the worse days.  Have you ever had a major argument with your spouse, and then softened immediately upon seeing a wedding photo in the hallway.....a tangible reminder of the better days to help you get through the worse.  I think I may just carry that little Christmas light around with me today as a reminder that things have been better and that they will be again.  As for adult conversation, I'm sure I'll have one again someday.   For now, I am summoned to the couch to read for the 14th time "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to a little boy who has stolen my heart, for better or for worse.