That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

Sit down, y'all... I feel like talking.  I've actually been trying to post this since last Saturday but I didn't win the battle.  


Today we went on a marathon hunt for my keys.  Which I blamed husband for losing because that's become his middle age thing.  Take my keys and put them exactly where they least belong - and make sure it's somewhere totally odd and unexpected where I'll never think to look.  And make sure and do all this on a busy morning when you leave early for the fire station and Kristi is left to handle the chaos of being about everyone's business in a limited amount of time before she needs to be at work. 

So of course he was first to get the blame today.  He's earned it.  Over and over. 

And I looked in  my purse ...  and kids 1 and 2 looked in my purse.  Which wasn't at all satisfying because husband then felt he had to look in my purse.  Then we hunted my work bag and the shelves by all the doors, and my car, and the dresser, and under the pillows in the front hallway where I've found lost keys before.  And we retraced our steps and remembered that I came home from work yesterday and thankfully never had to leave the house again.  So there.  I couldn't be the one who lost the keys. 

And we spent at least half an hour hunting till kid 1 remembered that kid 3 was the trash man yesterday and since we got garage robbed, and our lives were forever changed, we've had to live like big city victims of crime and put locks on our gates.  So kid 3 used my keys to unlock the alley gate and there we found them.  But at least not hanging in the gate for every east Dallas wanderer to come in and open our Christmas presents while we sleep.  They were actually found on top of our rain collection barrel in the backyard.  Which was a first for lost keys everywhere, but will next time be the first place we look.  


And there was the day this week when I tried to go to work but couldn't because I had a flat tire.  So I called fireman Dave at the station who was able to come home and swap cars with me real quick - with the firm instruction to immediately take his car to the gas station or I may be left stranded in that vehicle as well.  And whatever caused the flat tire made us buy 2 new tires because it turns out that if you fail to regularly rotate your tires per the tire warranty instructions, the tire shop won't fix your flat tire.  Live and learn, if I may quote my husband on that deal.  Which is a whole lot nicer than what I expected him to say.  And later in the day I went by the fire station and traded out cars so I could drive sickly kid 1 to the doctor on my two brand new tires and feel proud.  Good news is that he doesn't have strep or the flu but he has something else we can't quite put a name on and has a cure all prescription for antibiotics.  Merry Christmas.  


And since I was with the sick kid at the doctor, I had to send kid 2 walking to the elementary school to claim kid 3 and be the responsible stand in for me while I sat in the waiting room for 2 hours.  Then later I came home and drove kid 3 to the school spaghetti fundraiser and dropped him off like an orphan while I went to the pharmacy and waited with all the sick people to get kid 1's medicine.  Where I had something gigantic get into my eye and under my contact lens and I cried out of one eye in pain but was determined not to put my fingers in my eye at the pharmacy or I might catch something worse than whatever kid 1 has that brought me there in the first place.  

Then I went back to the elementary school and hunted for kid 3 who was found playing out in the dark of night with some friends and a football and by the time I got home that day, I wondered, for the thousandth time, what the heck.  What had I done to deserve a day like this one.  And then I told the boys goodnight and that I loved them even in all the craziness but Mom is done for the day.   Close my door please and do not enter unless someone is dying.  


And then there was the night I got separated from the family in Dallas Cowboys stadium with no cell phone signal.  In a stadium full of people all wearing the same color there for the high school state championship game - which we attended to support our nephew playing that night.  And lost, alone and hungry, without a dime to my name because I either had to carry everything into the stadium in a Ziploc bag or a tiny coin purse per stadium security rules.  So all I owned in the entire world that night was a tube of carmex, a toothbrush, and a dead cell phone.  

And I waited for husband to come find me - expecting him to draw from clues of all our years together to find the missing treasure .... clue 1, Kristi can be found around nice upholstered furnishings and clue 2, the biggest clue of all - find the most upscale bathrooms in the stadium and Kristi will probably be close by.  (And yes, I did find those.  The ones with real faucet fixtures, marble counter tops and hot water.) 


But he didn't come looking for me and I eventually asked a fella if I could use his phone to call for help.  And y'all, now I know to never to get lost in a desert or a strange country or I'll be on my own to find my way.

And on Christmas Eve the boys were wrestling all over my bed and crashed into me and made me cry like maybe they broke my rib.  But they didn't.  And it turns out it was mostly just a broken heart.   

And this has been my season of Advent.  My season of waiting.  Waiting as we do every year at this time for the light of the world to show himself to us again and remove the darkness that seems to follow us more sometimes than others. Waiting for the real reason for Christmas.   

And it seems I've been waiting day after day for the longest time of late and .... still waiting.  So this isn't my merry Christmas blog post.  This is a real post about real feelings and real things that are okay to feel and say out loud.  


Here's a picture of our happy family making cute cookies together.  


But pictures don't tell how then kid 1 got mad at kid 3 and broke one of the cookies all over kid 3's face then yelled something to the effect of... I'll break your face with a clothes hanger.  Nice.  

So I had 2 kids locked in mom jail forever until they could figure out how to use their words nicely in our home.  Then, I cried through the entire new Little Orphan Annie movie and thought for sure the sun will never come out again tomorrow.   And I cried in the car on the way home and I cried when I asked kid 1 then kid 2 to help with a chore and they argued about how tough life is when you have a mom that has expectations of you.  

And there it was.  The dammed up tears of a lifetime were released and became the flood waters of Christmas sadness.  

And here's what it all comes down to.  My kids have been arguing up a storm lately.  Usually just 2 of the 3 of them at a time, but with no guarantee that the third won't jump in and pick a side to support. 

And too many times it includes name calling, and lots of the word hate.  And parents everywhere have told me that I'm not alone on this island of ugliness, and that things will change as the kids grow up.  

But here you go.... I grew up in a house where things didn't change.  There was yelling and hurt and disappointment.  And people who were supposed to love didn't act very lovely sometimes.  And more than anyone ever should... we heard the word hate.  And y'all, after a kid hears that word for long enough, it becomes much more than a word.  


So I had a difficult time being merry and bright before Christmas this year.  Did you?  I hope not, but you can say it if you did.  Because it happens.  And all the shopping and cooking and gifting won't and can't change a heart that just isn't ready to open up to joy on calendar command.  We can't schedule our joys and our blessings and our hopes any more than we can schedule a hair appointment when we desperately need it the most. 

And I think the holidays bring a big mix of emotions out in some of us.  Especially those of us that tend to keep a little bit of hurt feelings held inside the rest of the year.  Then when Silent Night plays during the candlelight church service or a sweet Disney movie song sends us over the edge, the holiday wishes of merry and bright become more of a demand than a well meaning wish.  

And I truly love this time of year - mixed feelings and all - because I have the choice to make some changes.  The choice to make memories and all new traditions.  And it's a new beginning over and over that never stops coming year after year as a reminder for us... that we can start all new because

Because through what seem to be impenetrable walls at times, Christ breaks through to our world, on schedule, on demand, and on time when we need him the most.  And even the ugliest of words and the hardest of hearts can't resist the love of a baby that came to love us just the way we are.   

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. 

post script... And FYI.... water resistant mascara is NOT the same as waterproof.  Don't trust it ladies.  DO NOT TRUST IT.  


 

I'm going with the less is more theory of decking our halls

So here's how an impromptu friend party came about... and some pictures of our house finally decorated for Christmas.  I'm going with the less is more theory of decking our halls.




Last night I learned that kid 2 and two buddies had organized a gift exchange between the three of them.  With a $20 limit.  Which tells me that one person will spend $20 and another will spend $5 because that, too, fits the $20 spending limit rule.  So the impromptu party was born.

Which involved me dropping 6 kids off at the movies so I could ready the food and decor - meaning I heated the chicken nuggets and put a cloth on the table to catch queso cheese dip drips.  Then brought everyone back here for some play time, snacks and the reason for the season - the giving.  Today's theme - the North Texas Food Bank.  So instead of the planned gift exchange, which was in and of itself, a thoughtful gesture on the part of three sweet friends, the good news is that we already have plenty.  And the fact is that we all have.  We have what we need. We have lots of what we want.  And we have the choice to share some of it with those that don't.  So I had the kids donate what they felt good about to be donated for food donations instead of buying a new video game for a friend. 




And we didn't raise tons for our cause, but we raised enough for young teens and tweens to have a moment to think of someone other than themselves.   And a moment is about how long the thought lasted till they went on to play more football.  But it seems like I'm on a forever quest for learning moments big or small.  So I hope they're all adding up in their hearts for later in life. 

The end. 




So here is the house at Christmas.  Missing the rug in the den, thanks to a dog that had a terrible accident for her dog sitter over the Thanksgiving weekend.  And as of this writing we have no gifts.  But I finally convinced husband to place some Amazon. com orders this week to make sure the kids don't cry on Christmas morning.  So we're definitely on the right path. 






And the mantle.  Simple but I happen to think I may love it.  We're not a fancy people, as you may have guessed.  But we're festive in our hearts where it counts.  It was kid 2's idea to gift wrap the giant print that is normally above our fireplace - the one of the three boys in the back of a vintage red truck - kid 2 calls it the farm boy picture.  And he thought it had no place here at Christmas.  So we just wrapped it all up and put a bow on it and called it cute.

The little Santa is a painted gourd that we've had for years.  A gift from my mother in law and was hand painted by a lady in North Carolina. Love. 

My favorite ornaments on the tree are cut out hand prints of my kiddos when they were babies.  Because when we were just starting out there just wasn't room in the budget of a rookie fireman and a stay at home mom for fancy ornaments.  So I made salt dough, cut out some traced baby hands and now they have an annual home on our tree.  At least till I die.  Because husband isn't in love with them.  And that'll probably be the first thing he throws out -  if and when he marries the Nicaraguan nanny that he hires to care for the children upon my unfortunate demise. 




And once again fireman Dave showed his talents as a home decorator and turned our front porch into a place I want to sit in every night.  I may even have him figure a way to permanently attach these lights for all year use.

Both the porch chairs were trash pile finds.  And I love them all the more because of it.  A can of brown spray paint from Lowe's later and they found their way into our hearts.  



The dining room is finally finished.  And I'm loving the plate display on the wall. But one of the prettiest has already been knocked off and broken in an after dinner rush from the table.  But y'all, stuff like that happens.  So I don't cry over broken whatevers, because there are plenty of broken things around here.  But I still want the boys to live with and around pretty things.  I'm growing future husbands and fathers here and they need to know how to live in families - not just in manly frat house environments.  Amen. 

The front living room is probably the least used spot in the house.  It's the formal living room that came with all 1950's houses and we have thoughts of one day building a Murphy bed into the wall and using it as a bedroom for whatever kid gets along the worst with the other 2.  Or maybe it should go to the best kid and let it be a reward.  We have no clue.  But this is the room where I put my 2 recent thrift store chair purchases. And with each costing less than $50, it just made the room complete.  Now one day I'll hang something on that big blank wall and call it done.  



Not a lot of Christmas going on in the kitchen except that I put out the cute red and green towels.  And as you can see inside my glass cabinets, we are celebrating fully by eating a lot of chips.  And lots of fudge which is stored in the fridge because the ants are wintering in my kitchen again this year. 



And finally, the nativity.  Which I placed in the monogrammed section of our house - my growing collection of W's.  Because I don't know if anyone can say for sure, but it may or may not have been Mary and Joseph Walters named in the Christmas story. 

No Christmas fun in the bathrooms or hallways.  But if I wanted to, I could probably gather all the boys' dirty laundry that they stuff behind the toilet and make a wreath out of it.  

End of tour.  I'll be better prepared next year.  Y'all just wait and see.  

But here's the big deal.....  I resigned my PTA Board post this past week.  And I felt a little bad about leaving in the middle of the school year.  But you know what I felt worse about?  Leaving my kids.  Leaving for meetings and projects and other stuff that my heart just wasn't in.  And I just know there comes a time when no is the right answer.  And if it requires a big no to spend more quality time at home - making a home for the people closest to me, then no it is.  

And we're enjoying not running around crazy to extra events and such.  And enjoying the freedom of having friends over and play time and TV time and us time.  And these are the feelings I want my kids to remember about their Christmases growing up.  Not that we had the best decorations, but that we had ones that were built on tradition.  Not that we had a full schedule of social commitments, but that we had our full time and our full attention to give to each other.  

The end.  Really this time.   

post script... I took the kids' money to the local grocery store, Tom Thumb, who makes giving easy.  They have already packaged bags ready for giving to the North Texas Food Bank with enough food for a family for a day.  And they deliver it for you, too.  So for less than $10 per bag that you can add to your grocery bill, you can feed someone locally.  Good and easy - can't go wrong there.  Try it.  You'll like it.  



For the days when you stare into a boiling pot of chicken and wonder how you got here and why your kids can't do math

You know those days when you stare into a boiling pot of chicken and wonder how you got here and why your kids can't do math?  And those days where you've talked to every teacher about this and that and laid down just about all you're worth to ask for help to keep your kid from failing and ending up a bum on the street?  And those days where you've challenged the 5th grade science teacher on her grading policy and now you think she hates you and might poison your kid's lunch for revenge?  And still after all is said and done, all it really proved, after multiple scientific trials, of course, is that science fair is stupid.

Then you get an email from another teacher asking you to ambush surprise your kid in action in class so you can see what the teacher has to deal with on a daily basis.  And then you e-mail  said teacher in reply saying you both understand and feel his pain because you've lived with it at home for the past XX years.     But how you would prefer he handle his side of the business and let your mind forget about motherhood for those few precious school hours of the day.  Not really.  Because thinking something is not the same as saying it. 

Then you drop off your fireman husband at his fire station for a few minutes to wait for you while you run an errand because he doesn't think it's much fun to return a comforter to Kohl's.  And when you pull out of the station a young policeman follows you all the way to Kohl's when you can't even figure out how he knew where you were going, and he wants to discuss your expired car stickers.  So then you call your husband at the fire station to tell him what he's missing, along with an I told you so, and then hand the phone to the young policeman to have a man to man discussion about car registrations and inspections.  Then you talk with the young policeman about how his wife forgot to get the oil changed in her car and went about 1000  miles over what he would've preferred, and also his plans to go home to Washington to visit family for Christmas and how thankful he is for the time off.  Because it's always nice to get to know your first responders in the neighborhood, and really he was just lovely.  Then you finally go in and return your comforter. 

Then you sit down with your 8th grade son to do some algebra after talking to his teacher and learning that he has done far too much girlfriend hand holding in school as of late rather than math.  And then you find yourself  eating too many chocolate chip cookies for strength of mind and body to add polynomials at way too late an hour on a school night.


And this just says it all.  How I'm feeling these days, how our Christmas season is going, and how we might just be the family that leaves Christmas off the calendar altogether this year. 

We do have half a house of outdoor lights up thus far.  But only on the back side of the house.  So only the trash men can see them  - or maybe our garage burglar if he comes back to do some Christmas shopping at our house. 

So welcome to another round about tour of all things Walters, volume whatever.  Y'all I had a friend point out to me recently how I tend to make light of a lot of things on this blog.  Which is far better than crying about it, I like to think.   And you do know that I would never really sell my kids to the gypsies or give any of them away free to a good home for more than a temporary arrangement, right? 

But this much is true.  I do regularly have to step back and take a neutral view of our family.  This coming from a gal that was raised in a home where people didn't.  No one stepped back and considered.  No one counted to 10 and paused their words.  And no one took the time to look deeper - at each other - than what was seen with the eye.  And I need to do some things differently so we can be a different kind of family.  

Is it working?  I don't know.  But I tend to rely on time and the goodness of grace to soften my eyes to quite a few things.   And a husband who regularly reminds me that the world isn't ending in a blaze of fire brought about by one or more of my kids. 

I can do all things who Christ who is my strength.  Phil 4:13

Right?  We all know that one.

But I think more often than not, we think about it all wrong.  And we use it all wrong.  Because if these really were magic words, I would be a crazy rich super model/ super mom/gourmet cook all in one taller and tanner package.  

But - my non Biblically trained eye and heart at work on this one, of course - I think this isn't a promise to make us more than what we already are.  Because we are already all that God wanted us to be - once we trust him to bring it all into view.   Instead, I think this verse is a promise to make us more for himTo make us more for the glory of God in all that we set out to do.  Not to win a race or a job promotion or a contest of wills with our children.  But to make me the best me that I can be for the jobs that God has put before me.  Specifically for me.

And right now that involves algebra. 

God places the lonely in families - Psalm 68:6

Wednesdays are my usual day off.  And I take them very seriously.  Like that time when I left the house for the first time around 1:30 to go buy some chili cheese Fritos.  (For a salad.  Not for my snack.)  And I had on some fairly unattractive pants and nap time hair.  And compared to the fancily dressed mom  in the dairy section, I felt ashamed.

But not today.  As my plans for laziness and assorted shopping trips was trumped by a surprise request.... when fireman Dave called from the station and said he needed a favor .... and I was guessing a trip to the grocery store or possibly another sinus headache where he needed an emergency decongestant and for me to feel sorry for him. 

But it was so much better than that.  Today I was asked to step in as the surprise/unexpected/ and for the most part, unfamiliar babysitter to the most adorable 6 month old baby girl of another firefighter.  Just for a short time, but long enough for me to fall in baby love all over again.   And it was all glorious and easy babysitting-  except for when the old dog that they forgot to tell me about decided I didn't belong in there holding his baby.  But other than that, it was all sweet and angel like with her and I plan to ask Santa for one just like her for Christmas this year.

But here's what I heard from the angel baby's mom and dad.... from both of them... at two separate times.  They both told me that their  house is a wreck and they hated for me to see it.  Hated for me to see what?  What raising kids and loving and living together really look like?  Because I already know.  Around here all our togetherness is messy with a frosting of dog hair and dirty laundry. 

But here's what I would say to this sweet couple about this, that and all the dirty things that go along with raising a family.  So young parents everywhere listen up.  And even those of us who have passed the toddler toys and motorized swing stage of life, we need to listen, too.  Especially me -  who thinks our house needs to look like a magazine spread in Southern Living at all times  - complete with the smell of fresh baked goods in the air. 

.....I thought I might be bored today.  But then an opportunity appeared and I found myself holding your precious little one who turned out to be sweeter than a piece of chocolate cake.  And we all know there's nothing like the sweetness of a baby to erase everything else that seemed important for a while - and show us that it wasn't nearly so important after all.

And your home is lovely and more than anything, filled with signs of a growing family.  I call it the primary colors stage of life when your home furnishings consist of all things that make sounds and are made of hard plastic or fake stuffed animal fur.  But it's all beautiful in the big picture of making a home and growing children in comfort and love of place.  In safety and knowledge that they belong just as much as that expensive thing that they just knocked off the shelf and thought it might make you mad.  But it didn't. 

And trust?  .... like today when I already knew dad, but not mom  - and the first time we met was in your living room with me holding your baby.  And locking your dog in your  bedroom to save myself.  Today reminded me of the time my oldest got stuck up in the top of the McDonald's play-land and was hysterical beyond all toddler reason.   So I had a choice to make.  There I was down below holding kid 2, just an infant.  And kid 1 losing control stuck inside a hamburger.   It was a confusing time for us all.  And as a new mom I had stranger danger on the mind.  But at that particular moment courage took over and I trusted a sweet lady I had never seen before and I don't think I have since.  A lady who held out her arms for kid 2 and gave me confidence to climb Mt. McDonald's to save a life.  And right then, maybe she saved me.  She showed me that there is good all around and there are people everywhere who want to help.  



And I learned more than anything that day as with hundreds more to come... that I can't do this alone.  I need you and you and you as a community to raise these kids alongside me to get this job done.  

Which brings me thoughts of last week's post of worry and tell-all tales of the rough time I'm having around here now as a mom.  This blog has, it seems, become the National Enquirer of Kristi's life - where you can read all about my doubts, my mistakes and my fears - including but not limited to - fear of mom failure, and mid life weight gain around my middle. 

But Thanksgiving brought a vacation that was much needed.  A trip surrounded by family, who for a few days, took the burden off of me and the worry away from me, and stepped in to show my surly teen some love.  And by doing that, showed me the same.  

And this is my husband's family - technically - as some of y'all know I've been separated from mine for some time.  And there is a constant feeling of loneliness and loss in that area.  But when I looked around the room at those surrounding me on our trip, I knew what is was to be thankful for those little times that bring hope and assurance back close to us.  

And I couldn't help but think about one tiny part of a bigger scripture in the Psalms.  

 Psalm 68:6
God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.......



And this little phrase, in it's sweet simplicity, is a promise that has continually been fulfilled to me over the years by a faithful God who has seen my need to be taken in.
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