Monthly Archives: December 2009

A Christmas Dare

Taken strictly as a fictional or even a historical narrative, the nativity is a miserable little story, isn't it? 
The birth of the child called Jesus was preceded by, and brought with it, so much suffering and terror.
I mean–his mother could have been stoned to death for bearing him. His peers were slaughtered for being the same general age. The shepherds were terrified, the wise men from the east endured a journey so difficult it took them years to complete it and Simon had been standing in the temple for so long that he took one look at the child's face and said, Finally God! Now let me die, if you don't mind. 
When I was a child, I saw a cherubic little baby and the stars and the angels. 
When I was a young mother, bursting at the seams with my own unborn child during the Christmas season, Mary began to come into focus; and as I struggle through life, I begin to recognize all the other terrified, waiting, journeying, weeping characters. 
And I have to ask–if I believe that the boy child, Jesus Christ was simply a man–even a good man or a great teacher–how can I justify rejoicing in his birth over the death and the suffering of all those other children? It doesn't compute; the basis of the entire Christmas season is horrific. 
Which only leaves us to believe Mary's defense–that her child was literally the Son of God–that he suffered, died and atoned for all the sin and sorrow the world has ever known–Herod's, yours and mine.
Do you believe that unbelievable, incomprehensible claim?
I have not seen angels, and the stars are constant in my sky, but I do. If it were the blood of my own children running in the streets, or if I had to walk a thousand grueling miles in order to worship Him, I would still believe.
I know that my Redeemer lives.
I cannot explain that. I can only testify that I know that Jesus Christ was born as the Bible says he was born–of a mortal mother and an immortal Father–with the capacity to die, and the power to live again and it is that miracle that we celebrate, really. There is no Christmas without the empty tomb, no Christmas without hope as enduring as Simon's was in the temple of his God, no Christmas without serious consideration of the invitation to follow Him–in forgiveness, in compassion, in service and love:
"Come, follow me."
The path of discipleship isn't nearly as difficult as you might think. We have His help–and even when the mountain won't move, the burden won't budge, or the path is completely obscured, the promise He made to His disciples that dark night of his betrayal is still in effect: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
He will heal you. He will help you. He loves you. Just as you are. Today. 
If you don't believe me–ask Him.

I dare you.

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Pickles for Grandma

My grandparents call me eight times a year–on my birthday, on my husband's birthday, and each of my children's. They talk to the birthday-ee, of course, but I always exercise my right to monopolize the conversation after everyone else has done hemming and hawing and wandered off. 
This week Grandma has been failing. A veritable storm of emails has flooded through the ranks, updating all ten children and literally dozens and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren and in-laws about her condition. 
I have sat in my warm little corner and fought unexpected tears as I considered the possibility that this could really be it–and thought, you know, I don't think my children will understand the depth of my sorrow, when these two go. 
After all. My grandparents call me. We don't call them. We haven't visited half a dozen times, even.
You know the litany of should-have/could-have cudgels you beat yourself with in hindsight. 
There is a book I have been writing for more than five years. A book for Grandma. When I publish it, I have always intended to ship it to her with the largest jar of dill pickles I can find. If I have to walk across the border holding it myself.
My children won't get the joke. 
It might be too late. 
My oldest boy turned 14 yesterday. Grandpa called. "How's Grandma?" I asked, even before giving the phone to my son.
"I'm doing okay," she pipes up. She's on the phone, too.
I spent the next half an hour listening to Grandma talk. She tells me about her best Christmas ever (age 16, silk stockings, one orange, one apple, two walnuts and some sugar candy: bliss) and riding the train to Lethbridge to pick out a diamond ring, dances in Waterton, and going off summers to cook for 14 cowboys at an age when I didn't let my daughter walk down the street by herself. 
Grandma hasn't spoken this clearly or well for years. Grandpa has never been so silent. 
I want to tell her about my book. It's almost done. I have to submit the final draft within the week. I want her to know I wrote it for her. Every word. I used her beautiful, unique name, and I set it in the foundations of her home.
But I don't want her to stop talking. I'm scribbling notes furiously into a notebook as she speaks, grasping at the stories and the joy, trying to pin them to paper. 
Finally Grandpa breaks in. "Don't you have a birthday boy?" he asks. 
I surrender the telephone. I pace as the fourteen year old listens silently to whatever these strange voices on the phone are telling him. Occasionally he says something like, "Five-foot-ten." Or "Uh-huh."
When he's done, he hangs up. 
I hold the silent phone and I don't know what to do with it. 
I find my daughter. My one and only. 
She's fifteen. 
We see one another occasionally. 
I ask her questions I never thought I'd ask my daughter. We sit up until ten-thirty–me on my bed, her in the chair–and we puzzle and we laugh and we understand one another in a way I didn't think was possible. 
And somewhere up north, Grandma is okay. No matter what happens. She's got her little white pill to cut down on the nausea, and she knows that her Redeemer lives. "Especially this time of year," she said. And she said it with so much joy and so much strength that I recognize the fount of my own convictions. 
And I open up my own to my daughter. 
But I pray to God that I still have time to send the pickles. 

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And It’s Not Even Noon Yet

This pretty much sums up my day:

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The Best Christmas Present Ever

One of the families I provide childcare for brought over a laundry basket filled with, well, laundry. 
Eight brand new, perfectly sized, flannel pajama pants–one for each member of our family. I have never seen my children so excited. Even the teenagers. They may get pj's for every gift-giving holiday from now, for the rest of their lives. Why did I not know this secret wish in the hearts of my progeny?
Oh, and several boxes/tins of hot cocoa mix–in exotic flavors like dark chocolate gingerbread, dark chocolate and raspberry, and some kind of white cocoa, too. 
This woman knows me well:
  1. I can always use more containers for Laundry Mountain.
  2. If you buy strange flavors of chocolate, the Mother of the household might actually get some.
  3. I love all things raspberry. [How did you know that, by the way?]
  4. I'm a cheapskate, and therefore outside the government regulated temperature of the daycare area, our house is a chilly place.
  5. On a Saturday morning, hot cocoa definitely counts as breakfast.
I would herd them all onto the couch, in front of the tree and take a picture, but I'd hate to disturb the peace. Or move from my desk in my warm little corner. Or upset my raspberry chocolate. 
So you'll just have to imagine…
Thanks Angie!

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Conversations at my house this week:
The almost-two-year old, pointing out the window at the first snow of the year, with her most earnest tattle-tale expression, ever: 
"Milk! Milk!"
The newly potty-trained: 
"Kimber, Kimber! I pooped in the toilet!"
"Yes you did! What a big girl!"
"I made a big poop!"
"Yes, that is a big one!"
"Yeah, I looks like my dad."
(You know I emailed that one along to her parents.)
My fifth child, after everyone else has been talking about the snow for three hours and bemoaning the fact that buses are still running on schedule, and he gets on his backpack and goes to the door:
"Mom! It snowed!!!!!!"

The same son, after I ask him what he's doing to the block of cheese:

"Trying to cut it."
"Why don't you use this stuff? It's already sliced."
"Who cut it?"
"Probably nobody–they probably pour it all onto a big sheet and then a machine slices it into squares and they stack it up, I don't know. 
"Unless it comes out of the cow that way."
Uh. Yeah. Unless that.

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The Stripper

It's rush hour, and I'm standing in the main aisle of the store, by all the check stands (and wouldn't you know it–people) musing aloud: "What else did we need?"
My megaphone-mouthed son: "Dad wants a stripper!"
Yes. He does. An adhesive stripper. 
My two teenaged sons come in, the next afternoon, "Mom!" 
"That stripper was awesome!" (If only CPS could inspect me now…)

The next day: "Mom, that stripper ran out on us."
And after I go get more and the enchantment of a new project has worn off and the drudgery has set in, they come home the next day, weary. "Dude–that stripper wasn't as easy to work with as the last one."
And the puns don't stop. Who knew there could be so much potential comedic material in one can of Strip-Ease and a nasty basement floor?

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Cards On The Table

Every year, I buy Christmas cards. 
Most years I write in them. 
Some years I stamp and address them. 
I haven't mailed any in approximately 13 years. (If you received one more recently than that, feel free to correct me). Sometime in February or March I stealthily clean out my desk and throw them all away. And vow to get to the post office on time, this year.
This year, I bought the cards in October. Beautiful, individual, handmade cards that cost a pretty enough penny that logically, my skinflint nature will balk at throwing them away, and so I will mail them–right?
I sat my kids down one fine Monday evening in November and we all wrote in the cards. The six year old drew pictures. I told myself it's the thought that counts, not our verbosity, and really, who really cares enough to read a summary of our last year who doesn't already keep up with it in other ways, right?
My fifteen-year-old addressed them in her immaculate hand (a computer scanner can convert this girl's writing into text) and my twelve year old stamped them all. 
I am worried that because the cards are handmade and bulky, they will need extra postage though, so I decided I need to actually take them down to the post office. 
One day during post office hours. 
When I don't have any kids with me.  
And–there they sit. Stamped, addressed, sealed, sitting on my table.
Tick-tock, tick-tock…

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I have a five-year-old child in my care who is notorious for her mismatched or missing socks. She will wear one purple with one green and white striped–or just a sock on one foot and not the other. Or none at all.
This morning I held up one of her distinctive, lime green socks. "Anaka," I said. "Is this your sock?"
She studies it very carefully and hands it back to me.  "No," she says, "I already have one like that at my house."

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Cats in the Drain Pipe and Bureaucrats Who Maybe Should Be

Speaking of water that isn't draining when it should, and other general items of baloney, I discovered a few more things today:
1) The slow shower in the master bath had nothing to do with the non-draining washing machine we fixed yesterday. No. This problem clearly had more to do with the plug of hair the Mr. pulled out of the drain this morning. (Are you noticing a trend here? I mean aside from the ick factor? I didn't fix this problem, either. Delegation: I could get used to this…) 
This was no ordinary hairball. We're talking a record breaking, Guinness sized hairball. Picture a good-sized house cat; grow its hair out to 24"-36" lengths; coat it with sludge; cram it into a 4" drain pipe. Now pull it out with a gag-reflex inducing shlurp. 
That's the enormity of the thing he extracted this morning. And since he's pretty much hairless, I'm guessing it's all mine. All evidence points to the probability that my hair really is thinning. Sniff.
2) To renew my childcare license I will have to pump my septic tank before March.  Whether it needs it or not. Can you imagine the variety of prizes they could dredge up out of there? 
I also need to submit a resume and get three more professional, non-related referrals to fill out a questionnaire and send it in, and I get to do all the same paperwork I did three years ago to get this job. Same job. Same employer. Same everything. The new background check and current CPR/first aid thing I understand, but an updated resume? Seriously? Do they think that in my free time I've had another job that qualifies me even more for this position? Are they going to fire me if I submit the identical resume they already have on file? 
Can they not look at their files and see that I've been paying union dues–for a union to which I do NOT belong, and who I believe to be just slightly more legit than the Russian Mafia–to a tune significant enough that it is obvious I'm doing this full time and successfully and have been for the three years since the last resume and work history I submitted?
Does your employer make you reapply and jump through all the hoops every three years? Do they? Is this reasonable? Under my most recent job description should I write something like, "Childcare, Plumber, Filler-outer of ridiculous forms generated by government bureaucrats over and over and over..." 
Under the section that asks, "Do you have any experiences, skills or talents that qualify you for this position?" Should I respond, "Yes, and I'd be using and/or honing them, right now, if I wasn't filling out this form."?
My license expires in March of 2010. 

They want my application back by December 5th. 

I feel so respected, appreciated, and understood.
Bring it on, DEL. You picked a bad week and I don't see it getting any rosier in the near future.

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