Monday, December 30, 2013

Year's End

The end of 2013.

I still have to pause and think about what year it is (is it 2012? 2014? 2000?), and it is already over! I do not think I really ever caught on to this year. After a string of very difficult years, 2012 was incredible, a real turning point for my family. While 2013 was not nearly as amazing as 2012, neither was it horrible. It was a year of learning and growing. 

1) Who I Am - I turned 40 in 2013. Still blows my mind. It is so . . , older! Inside, I still feel like a bumbling 18-year-old. My birthday gift to myself was permission to love who I am, not who I feel I should be (and here my husband goes, "DUH! I have been trying to get you to do this for years!" I know, honey - you are a man of wisdom!). It is a daily struggle, but I am learning to tame the negative messages I have been feeding myself since I was a teenager. I am learning to be patient with my body (because I am very unhappy with it) and more patient with my myriads of mistakes. Learning to love yourself is a tricky business.

Putting this picture on our Christmas card collage was a big step for me

2) What I Do - I began a new job, in addition to all the other things I already do. It has its goods and its bads. I am trying to weigh the two to decide how to move forward, and that is one of my big tasks of 2014.

3) What I Love - Singing. I began singing in college. I took a break from singing from the time of grad school through the birth of of my first child.  I have been singing in church again for almost 16 years. It is an odd thing - being a church cantor. You have to have the chutzpah to get up in front of a large group of people and think they won't mind listening to you, but remain humble and never forget you are serving. A real paradox!

One of my workspaces

 Earlier this year, I rededicated myself to this ministry. After a lot of prayer and helpful conversation with two fellow singers (thanks Sharon and Kerry!), I knew I was at a crossroads: I either needed to get out of cantoring altogether or I needed to place myself in the service of God in this ministry. And being in service means that I cannot be egotistical at all about what I do. For me, this means I (try to) accept what I get asked to do and what I do not get asked to do. It means I give it my all, without expectation of reward or recognition.

And believe me, I have LOTS of opinions when it comes to church music! My family gives me special "music-venting" time, when I am musically stressed!

4) Who I Surround Myself With - this was a year of changing friendships. Some relationships change, some fade away, and some bloom.

I have been so incredibly blessed to develop a real friendship with my dear neighbor. It was a
totally unexpected joy this year. It is such a gift to find a new friend, especially one you can really relate to and who urges you to be a better person and walk closer to God. She was literally an answer to prayer, but even better, her whole family has been a blessing to my whole family.
Other times this past year, I have reached out on facebook - in joy or frustration or whatever - and I received such support and love. It feels silly to say, but facebook was a real blessing this year.

2014, a whole new year full of promise. I have big hopes and plans for this coming year!

1) My Marriage - this is one of the things I am MOST excited about for the upcoming year. ArtGuy and I have been married 17 years, and have been parents 16 out of those 17 years. Parenthood has defined our marriage. It is a good thing, yes (one of the very best things of my life), but also trying, as anyone with multiple children will tell you. Some of our children are more "intense" than others, and that can lead to spending a lot of time on parenting - which is a good thing for the kids, but not so great for the marriage.

Now that our youngest, the Monkey, has turned 5 and is no longer a baby (a fact over which I vacillate between cheers and tears), and no one is currently deathly ill or dying (the illness and death of my only sister was very, very difficult) means we have a chance to really connect with each other in a way we have not for a long time.
I heard someone say that when you have been married to someone for 15, 16, 17 years, you can no longer compare them to who they were when you were first married. No one is the same as they were 15 (or more) years ago, so you have to relate to each other as you are now. It is a beautiful thought.
Not that having multiple teens in the house is a breeze, but it is a different ball game than when we had three little boys under the age of 5!
So, ArtGuy and I are on a mission to reconnect, outside of being parents. It is very exciting!

2) My Children - Like I said above, our youngest is now five - or as he proudly proclaims ,"a big boy"! And the Young Adult is 16 (gulp!). Cookie Boy is 14 and Romeo is staring 12 in the face. ArtGuy and I are in a Golden Era of parenting. The boys are all independent (to a degree), self-sufficient (at times), and able to pour their own breakfast cereal (my Golden Standard for childhood independence!). They are all interactive, fun, and easy to cart around. They are all still home. In just a few years, college will loom in our lives and my little nest will be broken up (as it should be. Sniff sniff!). But, for now, they are all here and they are all fun to be around.

Look at those hats! They just scream, "fun and crazy guys"!

We are planning a really big family trip this year, which should be a blast. I have a feeling we will look back on this coming year as a special time in our lives.

3) What To Do - I am excited about a new year and what I want to pursue. Do I want to work on writing again? Painting? Devote myself to cooking (hah hah!)?
I know 2014 will involve gearing up the college prep for the Young Adult, which makes me shake in my boots a little (if you told me 17 years ago I would be homeschooling high schoolers . . .).
 I am going to give myself permission to say "no" or "not now" more often in 2014 (I hope I learned my lesson by my over-involvement in too many things in 2013. But, I do it every once in a while - 10th grade, junior year of college, and apparently, 2013!).

So, goodbye 2013. It has been an interesting year.

And hello, 2014! May you be a year of great joy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas is Coming

Five days until Christmas. So hard to believe.

Today is my one day with nowhere I HAVE to go (no Lego meetings, no work, no choir practice, no classes to cart kids to, no rehearsals), so I am choosing to be home! A novel concept these days!

So far I have cleaned the kitchen, swept and mopped the floor, and vacuumed downstairs. Well, the vacuuming was a two-step process. First, I ran the vacuum, then noticed it did not work. Second, I sat down and removed enough of my hair that had been wrapped around the roller that is was bigger than my hand - then I actually vacuumed!

Two years ago, I found the most adorable Advent book while I was browsing in Walmart. I bought it, and it has become one of my favorite things to do with the Monkey each Advent. I highly, highly recommend it if you have little ones. It counts down each day until Christmas with a short part of the Nativity story, with a small activity to do. Most of these activities are not a big deal and do not require extra materials - this non-crafty mom appreciates that! Yet, it really helps little ones connect with the preparation for Christmas.

Today's activity asked the Monkey to retell the Christmas story in his own words, while I wrote it down. I did. If you have little ones, get this done today. You will be glad you did. (We used a plush nativity set to help him tell the story.)

And so I bring to you the Christmas Story, in the words of five-year-old Monkey boy:

Joseph and Mary went a long, long way to the stable so that the baby could get out of Mary's tummy. Mary was going to be very excited about her new baby.

The baby got out of Mary's tummy. And Joseph and Mary thought and thought of a name for the baby. Then, they thought of one - Jesus.

Then, they saw a light that was far away, and it came closer and closer.

Then when they realized when it came it was the three Wise Men and the shepherds. The Wise Men's camel came slow.

The shepherd sat down the light so the baby would not be scared.

Then one shepherd gave the baby a little blanket to put on him.

Then two angels appeared. And they said, "Mary and Joseph, protect that baby!"

Then, the angels disappeared into heaven. But before they went, they gave Mary 
some flowers.

The three Wise Men gave Mary a crown and Joseph a hat. And they gave them 
two rings, since they got married.

And then the Wise Men sat down their stuff for Mary to protect the baby with.

Then, the shepherds went home, and the wise men went to their castle where they sat on their big, red chairs.

Merry Christmas!
                                                                       The End