Category Archives: christmas

Outgrowing New Years Resolutions

Hello, my name is Christie and I am a list addict.

I have discussed this predilection before (The “Honey Do” List). If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m kind of a nerd. My absolutely favourite flavor of list has always been Resolutions.

There is something so intoxicating about this fantasy of future perfection. So, each year, I carefully craft a comprehensive manifesto for the year to come (okay, that sounds a little Una-Bomber-ish, but it’s an accurate descriptor). My administrative little soul shivers in pleasure at the thought of measurable targets and color-coded schedules. As if that’s not embarrassing enough, I’ve been known to alliterate the list categories: Health, Home, Happiness, Helping Others, Holiness… (a disturbing symptom of Sunday sermon brain rot).

This excess of order in the creation of my Resolutions has no actual benefit when it comes to their execution. I think the word is dissonance, as I cheerfully munch my way through a jumbo bag of sour patch kids while neatly formatting my diet goals for the year. In fact, the more time and energy I pour into drafting elaborate goals, the more I avoid any real action. I can ride the wave of optimism and good intentions for days, even weeks, before it all comes crashing down. And it always comes crashing down. The more elaborate the plan, the more spectacular the fail.

But this year will be different. No, I’m not giving up entirely. There is something inspiring about a new year and a new beginning. I am not willing to give that up, but I am changing my approach. Here’s a few things I’m trying to do different this year:

  • Let God weigh in. Too often I bring God a list of my objectives and plans, expecting that He will be thrilled that I thought of Him at all. Good things, valuable things that I’m sure will please Him, like a cat dropping a dead bird at her master’s feet. But my Maker has a better idea what I need and who I am becoming than I do, so why not consult the expert right from the word go?!
  • Focus on Being, Not Doing. Changing what I believe, my attitudes and my feelings, is so much more complicated than reading my bible each morning or eating leafy greens with dinner. But it is the only way for my resolve to outlast that early January idealism. It is more about my heart than teeth clenching, white knuckled willpower (which is good news, since I’m not so great with the willpower).
  • Keep it Simple. Instead of a long-winded list of Resolutions I am joining the One Word project this year. It’s such a great idea – find a single word to build your whole year around. In the next few days I’ll be posting my One Word 2012.

So here’s me, facing a year of change and upheaval without a mission statement or exhaustive list of goals. I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of relaxing! I should have done it years ago.

What are your resolutions this year? Do you have a structured timetable or cute acronym to keep them all straight? (Do you need one? I have years of experience after all!)

Friday Favourites: Best of 2011

When I was a teenager, I loved to listen to the top 106 songs of the year on New Year’s Day. AM 106 was the coolest station in town. It was really the only station in town that didn’t play country or uber-conservative talk radio (which was referred to as “Sound Reasoning” in our home). Some years I even threw in a cassette tape and recorded it. That’s right, a cassette – ’cause I’m REALLY old. Bear in mind, this was somewhat discouraged in our house: not outright forbidden, but bad enough that I would hide these mix tapes amongst Michael W. Smith and Petra. Still, the point wasn’t flirting with naughty secular music, but reliving the year (and totally rocking out in my bedroom).

In that same spirit, I’ve decided to offer a mix of my favourite posts of the year. I haven’t been doing this long, but here are a few that I liked best.

Seepage Issues: Grief Uncovered: My only entry in the Grief category so far, though I intend to discuss miscarriage and the loss of my 2 boys more, some day. But it’s hard to go here, because pain like this doesn’t have an expiry date.

Commas: Life lessons from punctuation, because sometimes we all need to pause and take a breath.

Promise with a Capital “P”: What I wish they would have told me when my daughter was born with Down Syndrome.

The Cake: The pain and the passion… the ultimate test of love… because my husband is worth it!

Most popular posts (or at least the ones that were searched out the most):

The History of a Tantrum: for the well meaning bystander: Enough said.

The “F” Word: That’s right. Read it. I dare you.

So here’s me, snickering my way through the search terms that brought people to my site.

  • impact of the thermos in society (3 times – who knew this was such a hot topic)
  • married swingers nudists (twice! – apparently this is also my audience)
  • boy enjoying on bicycle (I’m afraid to ask)
  • dragging a child kicking and screaming (these people I understand)
  • get naked quote (well, ya)
  • chain letters suck (amen!)

What was your favourite post? Which one did you absolutely hate? ‘Cause I’m open to criticism and totally willing to block you from my site (just kidding… sort of). If you’re a blogger too, please post your “best of the year” in the comment section for everyone to read.

Happy New Year!

Basking in the Glow

I like to organize. Cupboards, drawers, storage rooms… When I find the time to tackle a project, it is strangely addictive. Though the world spins out of my control (how dare it!), I am the master of this small domain. With each item I discard or donate, I hum an anthem of freedom. Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!

But the moment of true decluttering nirvana comes at the very end. When each item is in its place… boxes and bins neatly labelled and lined up for inspection. Ahhhhh.

For the next several days, I find myself returning to the scene of my great triumph. Each time I pass by I must pull open the door and gaze in wonderment. Is that the Hallelujah chorus I hear in the background?

Where I once would squint my eyes, reach in to grab the needed item, then hastily slam the door, now I linger. After overhauling the craft cupboard, I pulled a chair in from the kitchen so I could eat my lunch while basking in its tidy glow.

Is this strange? I wonder if my world is too small and trivial. Perhaps I should get a life… or hours of therapy.

But celebrating our successes, even the small ones, is important. Especially the small ones. Because a life that is full of celebration is a victory in and of itself.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s is a pause. The holiday craziness is over, but the vortex of real life has yet to begin. I’m sure that I will get caught up in the promise of resolutions and new beginnings with everyone else. But this week I will pull up a chair and bask in the glow of the year that has been.

So here’s me, thankful for a line-up of successes big and small.

Renovation. B reading her first words. Understanding God in a new way. Discovering blogging. Grand opening. Art and worship. Pointe shoes.  Family vacations. Online community.

What successes are in your line-up? Have you taken time to “bask in their glow”?

Holidays = Holy Days?

Right now I am watching a man named Captain FeatherSword dancing around in a lacey shirt singing “Ring-a-ding-a-ding! Ring-a-ding-a-dong!”

Some sort of nerd-girl Christmas porn? No. It is, however, the soundtrack to our Christmas vacation. We are watching “Santa’s Rockin’ Special” for the 3,463rd time. All so B won’t wake up her big sisters in the next room.

Someone should get some sleep. Sharing a room/bed/oxygen with B at night has not gone completely smoothly. Sure, it’s cute when she pokes the soles of my feet, giggles and then quickly pretends to sleep… At 10:00 it’s freaking adorable, at 11:00 it is mildly amusing, around midnight it begins to lose its charm. By 4:00 a.m. it is the most annoying torture known to man. I’m considering petitioning the Hague to add a special addendum to the Geneva convention to that affect.

Daddy to the rescue! Of course he managed to get her to sleep in only 15 minutes. Plus, he’s hardly ticklish at all. Totally unfair.

Since he also let me sleep in, even though he is still working all day long from the hotel room while we do fun holiday things, he is pretty much my hero! I shall call him Captain and he can ring-a-ding-a-dong anytime he wants.

Everyone has a role to play in the family holiday, like our own bizarre pageant played out year after year. This year’s cast also includes:

L as the oldest child and cousin. She is the babysitter, helper and all around gal Friday.

C bringing some teenage-like angst to every situation. Catching a smile on camera is the Holy Grail of holiday photographs.

My 90-year-old Grandma who naps most of the day, then apologizes profusely for being such a burden to us all. Mostly I’m jealous of her ability to doze off with impunity.

My Mom who dotes on all the grandchildren and expects others to do the same. She is deeply offended when waiters and store clerks do not respond appropriately to her questions. “Isn’t this the most adorable child you have ever seen?”

My Dad who provides the ice cream. Anywhere, anytime is a good time for ice cream. Also, the first real food for 2 of my 3 children thanks to Grandpa.

My Aunt who remembers all the old stories. Out loud. Especially the ones you may want to forget.

My baby sister, a younger, cooler version of myself (although equally dorky about all things sci-fi), who had the nerve to grow up. Now she is a mom. I only forgive her for making me feel so old because my nephew is the snuggliest, smiliest baby in the world.

My brother-in-law who brings some Latino flair and energy to our staid, polite Canadian family. Plus, he provided the aforementioned nephew for me to enjoy. He can stay.

My nephew who spends his time eating, sleeping, eating, pooping, eating and posing for pictures. I may be even more envious of him than Grandma.

As for me, when everyone asks “what’s the plan?” their heads all turn to look at me. So, I guess that makes me The Boss. As it should be…

So it’s not exactly perfect. Our car just broke down and we are now arranging to have it towed, first to the Canadian border and then home. Glen is dealing with some work drama and taking a lot of important calls in the bathroom while we frantically shush the kids. Grandma is having some health problems “down below” – I’m not sure what that means, but I’m sure she’ll tell me in excruciating detail.

This may seem like an excellent time for a meltdown (and I have considered it), but it’s actually the perfect setup for Christmas. Cause it doesn’t need to be a Silent Night to be a Holy one. That’s the beauty of the story. All is not calm and all is not bright, but that’s exactly where Jesus shows up. In the middle of the crazy: God With Us.

So here’s me, hoping to sleep in heavenly peace tonight!


Friday Favourites: Christmas at our House

So, the main problem a lot of people have with Christmas is that it starts WAY too early and consumes everything in its wake. Capitalist profiteers grab onto it like its the last cigarette at an AA meeting. It is in your face everywhere you turn: the decorations, the events, the sales, the music… everywhere you go, that same cheesy music echoes in your ears.

Well, I totally drank the koolaid this year. So brace yourself for an all festive favourites post today. Sorry cynics, you’ll have to look elsewhere for your holiday rant. But be sure to check back in the new year, I have very ambivilant feelings about Valentine’s Day.

Favourite Christmas Quote: “Teach us to give and not to count the cost.” — St. Ignatius of Loyola. Coincidentally, this is my husband’s LEAST favourite Christmas quote. But I’m pretty sure the saint was talking about a generosity that goes beyond fuzzy socks and santa claus pez dispensers.

Favourite Christmas Book: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. Not the most politically correct book of all time, but it has a heart of pure gold. Plus, I remember my mom reading it to me, so extra points for nostalgia. It starts with “The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.”

Favourite Christmas Movie: definitely It’s a Wonderful Life! I MUST watch this at least once every year, preferably on Christmas Eve. If you don’t like this movie, you have no heart. You are cold and cynical. And you may be married to me.

Favourite Christmas Tradition: We shamelessly stole this idea from our friends Mark and Lanette (you know what they say about sincerity and flattery and all that good stuff). One night in December we invite another family to join us for Grinch Night (a different family every year; be nice, and next year we might invite you!). Everyone dresses in green; this may or may not include green streaks in your hair and green face paint. We eat all green food and watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “Shrek the Halls”. Green caramel popcorn is the best – looks snotty, tastes delicious!

Favourite Gift Giving Ritual: Like most concerned (read: neurotic and guilt ridden) parents in the modern age, we are always looking for ways to teach our kids the real “reason for the season”. Ya, I said it. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit, it’s so cheesy, but truly, I want more for them than just mindless consumption. We found the idea of Three Wise Gifts in a parenting magazine years ago and it brings a little more meaning to Christmas morning. Before opening gifts we read about the Kings who came to worship Jesus (an undetermined number of magi who came years after Jesus was born with 3 gifts). Each year we buy our children gifts in these three categories – frankincense: for worship (usually a cd or meaningful book); myhrr: for the body (clothes or good smelling stuff); and gold: something precious (this is the “big” item and is often shared by all three). Not only does it keep the gifts reasonable, but each one represents a different side of Jesus – God, Saviour and King.

Favourite Christmas Character: Mary, the mother of God. A scared, confused teenager facing an unplanned pregnancy and the censure of her whole community. Birth-days are not cupcakes and party favours. On the actual day of birth there is pain, exhaustion, blood, sweat and tears. It is a messy, overwhelming, and completely amazing experience for every mother. Throw in a few miracles, angelic visitors, political upheavel, uninvited guests… it’s hardly the serene image we see on Christmas cards. But even more powerful, because that’s kind of God’s thing – showing up in the middle of chaos and upheaval.

A great place to find thought provoking and beautifully written articles called Deeper Story had a great post about Mary, definitely worth a read: Incarnation.

So here’s me, celebrating Christmas in the middle of chaos.

The Sacrament of Small Talk

‘Tis the season for close-quarters shopping, holiday recitals and office Christmas parties. Extroverts soak it all up – the energy, the excitement and the near constant socializing. For the rest of us, who shall hereafter be referred to as “normal,” the constant pressure to make nice with strangers is exhausting and overwhelming.

I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate analogy to describe my feelings as I anticipate my husband’s staff dinner. Sticking hot pokers in my eye? Getting a pap smear? Painful dental procedure? All three at the same time…

I hate small talk.

I’d like to think that this makes me a person of great depth, integrity and complexity. As if I am simply too busy/intellectual/chock full o’ spiritual insight to discuss unimportant topics with any old Joe Schmo who crosses my path. Of course, I have ample time to peruse pintrest, watch Walking Dead webisodes and google my own name.

The truth is, I am shy in new situations. Most people don’t realize it, but I’m actually chock full o’ insecurities. I care too much what people think of me. I over think everything I say. Then I over analyze what I’ve already said and the tone with which I said it, and my body language, and how it may have come across.

And this is why a simple discussion about the weather, local sports and your pet cat freaks me the heck out! I put on a good show. I am outgoing and friendly when I need to be, but my heart is beating like a hummingbird and my whole body is tensed to flee. Before a party I sit in the car and suck back the nausea.

Does it really matter if I can maintain a steady stream of shallow banter? Although I like people (and talking!) I’m an introvert, so small talk with new people will never be comfortable or easy. So why turn myself inside out to make it happen?

Someone reminded me the other day that every person I meet is made in the image of God, and when I get to know them, I am getting to know God better. Everyone has something to contribute. Those few moments in passing may be my only chance to connect with this completely unique and precious person.

So maybe it won’t change my world to hear about her bunions and his disgust with union politics, but it’s not always about me. I need to stop focusing on my own angsty feelings and make sure they feel comfortable. After all, who doesn’t want to feel heard and valued? Even just for the duration of the elevator ride, or the really awkward office party my husband is dragging me to.

So here’s me, off to check the weather report to make sure I have some good material.

How do you feel about small talk? Are you the silent, mysterious type or the life of the party?

Friday’s Favourites

Just doing my part to fill the gaping hole left by Oprah. Here are some of MY favourite things. I just might make this a regular thing…

Favourite quote: “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” – Eric Hoffer

Favourite “Mom” phrase: “Oh ya… this is happening.”

Favourite non-sentient being: my new iPhone.

Note – NOT the iPhone-S. I have finally found something that happily does what I want without talking back. I fully expect that one day “Siri” (the voice of iPhone-S) will turn on us, a la skynet. Me and my quiet, well behaved phone will be far, far from the trouble.

Favourite App – Remember those photo booth picture strips? I have one of me and hubby from when we were 16. We look all cute and sweet and we’re slobbering all over each other. Now I can take one anytime (and I do). So easy and only $0.99: Incredibooth.

Favourite Blog: This one is hard to narrow down. There are so many amazing/interesting/weird/compelling writers out there. She was one of the first I started to follow, based on the name alone. Funny, humble, inspiring and she has revitalized the word douche in our house. Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

Favourite Books: This week, it’s a toss up between Stephanie Meyer’s The Host and Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Suess. Both brilliant. Both by authors who are famous for other work. Both are the best they’ve ever written IMHO. So if you like intriguing sci-fi with great character development (and a dash of romance) pick the first. If you like clever political satire and/or absurd rhyming words, read the second. Better yet, read both.

Favourite Christmas cookie – most difficult category on my list. Do I honour my scottish roots and go with shortbread? Plus, it is made up almost entirely of butter and sugar, can’t go wrong with that. OR do I throw my support to the sugar cookie? Which, now that I think about it, often comes with icing which IS entirely butter and sugar. Done, sugar cookie it is, sorry Grandma.

NEW Favourite Christmas song – I heard this song on the radio and immediately tracked it down on youtube. Maybe I’m late to the party, but seriously, the AMAZING Justine Hines will be reaping most of my iTunes dollars in the new year.

So here’s me, peddling other people’s brilliance.

I May Be Biased But…

In the mid 90’s, researchers conducted a study on the connection between sugar and hyperactivity in children… at least that’s what they told the parents they were studying. All the children were given a drink, then parents were asked to rate their behavior. Half the parents were told that their children had been given a high dose of sugar. These parents rated their children as much more hyper than the parents in the control group. Of course, both groups of children had been given the same sugar-free drink.

Expectation alters perception. Those parents were convinced that their children were all hopped up on sugar, so that is what they saw. We almost always see what we expect to see. Everywhere we look, we find evidence to support our existing beliefs.

Tony Campolo once said that ultimately people believe what they want to believe. It’s something I can readily accept about other people, but somehow I prefer to think of myself in another category. Others may be prone to delusion, but I only believe what is true and right and sure.

So, in the spirit of this post and the Christmas season, I decided to debunk some of my own false beliefs. I googled “Christmas myths” and sure enough, I found a few surprises.

Pointsettas are dangerously poisonous, especially to young children. This has been proven false. At worst, they are mildly toxic, causing irritation of the mouth and some vomiting, but 9/10 people experience no negative effects. So chow down, there’s nothing to fear! After years of obsessively moving these flowers up high (even at other people’s houses) I can finally relax.

The suicide rate increases significantly during the Christmas season. Also not true… in fact, it is spring and summer that are most dangerous. That said, I realize that the holidays are a difficult time for many. All those family gatherings can be a huge stress, both for those who are alone and for those who wish they were. Which brings me to the Christmas homicide rate… I wonder?

The abbreviation X-mas is a plot by evil secularists to take “Christ” out of Christmas and a sign of “the times” <-this must be said in a deep, foreboding tone of voice. Now this isn’t a conspiracy I have ever subscribed to, but some in my family do. The truth is, the Greek word for Christ (you know, like in the New Testament, which wasn’t actually written in english btw) starts with an X and has been used as an abbreviation for Christ for centuries.

These are fairly silly beliefs, nothing life-changing, but what about the big things? How can we know anything when our own preconceptions colour how we interpret everything? Lately I’ve realized that I’m living in a world that is a lot less black and white than I once thought it was. Some of these biases I have are not holding up to scrutiny. Faith is a little harder, a little riskier, but I’m convinced it is still worth it. It isn’t supposed to be easy anyway.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

I think I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase the best: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” So maybe I’m wrong about some things… okay, definitely – no one tell my kids (or my husband). And maybe I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m trusting in a God who does. That’s what I believe… perhaps because that’s what I want to believe.

So here’s me, eating a big helping of humble pie (with a pointsetta garnish).

Whether it is silly or life altering, have you confronted a personal bias lately? Have you ever?

Christmas Countdown: Fair Trade Style

We are a family that counts down. We start young with “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going To The Moon,” and it never stops. Ask my husband, at any given moment, how many days until a long weekend, our next family holiday or the massage his doting wife promised him, and he can tell you accurately without a moment’s hesitation. One wonders what he might be capable of if so much valuable brain power wasn’t constantly engaged in keeping track of the minutes and hours… but I digress.

So, advent calanders, ya – we’re all over that. We hang a tiny little ornament on the quilted tree Oma made each night. The girls faithfully cross the days off their calanders. And we fight about which daily christmas devotionals we are going to use for the month. Right now it’s a throwdown between the cheesy, but beloved “Adornaments” and “What God Wants for Christmas”.

But the MOST crucial countdown of all is the cheap cardboard chocolate calander we get each year. I’ve been informed by experts in the field (a 9-year-old girl and her Dad) that it is not really Christmas without it.

One of the very first wails of protest when Mom’s fair trade crusade began was about this very important issue.

I was tickled to learn that there are, in fact, fair trade chocolate advent calanders to be had (Divine). Not only that, but these contain ACTUAL chocolate to pop out each day. As opposed to the brown coloured, chocolate scented ear wax we are used to. Not a bad option.

But as committed as I am to my family’s happiness and the end of child slavery, there is another virtue very near and dear to my heart.

I am cheap.

At $8-12 each, these are not unreasonably priced. BUT when each member of the family (including the one with facial hair) must have their own, that’s 8…16…24… way-too-expensive-for-mom-to-swallow Dollars.

This is not a blog where you will learn how to turn a shoebox and 4 pennies into a fully functioning shoe rack. I cannot tell you how to create the perfect turkey dinner for under $10 – I have never even roasted a turkey at all. But this is one crafty/home project that fits my profile: simple, fast and foolproof. So here it goes:

I bought this advent cupboard on impulse (it was on sale and I’m a sucker for deals I don’t really need). But a stack of envelopes would work just as well. There are SO many amazing advent projects that it is overwhelming. I say, keep it simple. Who need another reason to Grinch out this Christmas.

In each “day” I put:

  • a mini muffin cup
  • filled with 5 Cadbury’s FAIR TRADE chocolate buttons (1 per person)
  • an advent verse and/or prayer (free printables)
  • a fun family activity, outing or service project for that day (written on a strip of leftover wrapping paper)
Glen and I had fun brainstorming simple things to do as a family to honour Jesus and teach generosity, without driving us to drink (well, anymore than usual).
  1. Call GiGi (great grandma) and sing her a Christmas song.
  2. Christmas party tonight – have fun!
  3. Decorate the Christmas tree.
  4. Bake Gingerbread Men with Mom.
  5. Collect as much change as you can find around the house to give to the Salvation Army Santa at the store (winner gets hot chocolate to share with everyone).
  6. Drive to Candy Cane Lane to look at the Christmas lights.
  7. Go to the store and buy food for the Food Bank.
  8. There are 12 cherry Candy Canes hidden throughout the house. Ready, set, go!
  9. Draw a picture/write a letter to our sponsored children (World Vision and Compassion).
  10. Create an e-vite and invite friends to our New Year’s Eve party.
  11. Make Christmas crafts with Aunt Judy!
  12. Everyone give a foot rub to someone else tonight.
  13. Christmas Shopping date with Dad.
  14. Paint your own pottery at the ceramics store – make a special gift for someone you don’t normally exchange gifts with.
  15. Celebrate Grinch Night – everyone wear green, eat all green food and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Invite the neighbours to join us!
  16. Pick a project from the World Vision Catalogue to donate your charity money to (our kids save some of their allowance each week to give).
  17. Plan games and food for our New Year’s Eve party.
  18. Create a “Welcome” banner for all the family that are coming to stay with us – especially your brand new cousin.
  19. Pack for our trip – we are driving to the timeshare today. Pick your favourite carol to sing in the car (even Dad will join in) (Dad’s Note: he will??? Doesn’t sound like something he’d do.).
  20. Movie night with the Aunties – wear pajamas, eat cararmel corn and watch Sound of Music.
  21. Choose Christmas e-cards to send to Grandma Lindsay every day until Christmas.
  22. Play Christmas song charades.
  23. Chowder Party at Oma and Opas.
  24. Build a Gingerbread house with Uncle Miguel

Advent Box – $20.00

Muffin Cups – $1.00

Cadbury’s Buttons (2 packages) – $8

This is the part where I should say “Advent family fun….ah…priceless!”

But it was actually $29.00 plus tax, which is a pretty good deal in my book and can be used for years to come.

So here’s me, 18 days until I get to snuggle my brand new nephew for the first time, 32 days until I pack it all back in rubbermaid containers and 366 days until we start it all over again.

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