Monday, December 14, 2009

A La Mode Christmas Tour

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

Merry Christmas one and all! Today is the Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes party and I simply can't abstain from anything with the words "Nester" and "party." Last year I was feeling all excited about my holiday decorating. This year I am more tired than inspired but I am joining in nonetheless. Here we go...

The tree.

It is fake and was cheap and obviously not that pretty. But it's easy. For me the important part is the tree decor. These unassuming trinkets are very sentimental as they are a combination of ornaments that our parents gave us when we got married and ornaments my own children have made over the years.

I especially love my topper. Blondie made this little cardboard angel when she was 3 or 4. I always cry when I take it out of the Christmas bin. I love its giant blue eyes and sparse yellow yarn-hair.

Coffee filter glitter-angels and thumbprint snowmen grow more precious every year.

My mantle is not Christmasy at all save for this lonely star. I didn't get around to the garland part like I did last year.

I did, however, put up this window garland again. I love it.

But not as much as I love all of these handprint decorations the kids made with their toddler hands at pre-school in years past.

My Nester-inspired ragamuffin garland I made last year.

The entry-way is kind of fun. Our advent calendar, Christmas cards, stockings, and more kid-made decor.

We're trying to keep Jesus at the forefront of Christmas...but truth be told there were Toys 'r Us circulars here earlier this morning. Sigh.

I love this sweet handmade reminder that He's still the center, chaos and all.

The kids drew these manger scenes today. Here's Blondie's:

As you can see Brownie's rendition of the nativity is more "layered": Joseph brought a present, Jesus has a Christmas tree, there are various locks and entrances into the stable, and if any of the manger participants become bored they can play putt-putt.

Blondie and Brownie were working on a lovely holiday mural...

Until a certain two-year-old chalk thief sidled up, hoarded all the chalk when they weren't looking, and "ruined" their pictures.

He deserves a lump of coal for all his naughty-ness...but he would probably just eat it or smear it on the walls.

Clearly if there's a theme in our house this year, it's one of "keepin' it real"...especially with these three always-stirring creatures.

Merry Christmas from our humble abode to yours!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'98 Ford Windstar

Before I had kids I said I would never drive a mini-van. Never. My snobbish and idealistic younger self envisioned a Volvo cross-country {navy-blue} or some sort of savvy SUV. All of which makes my current vehicle so ironic and laughable.

As we prepare for a big driving trip, I've been thinking a lot about the Windstar.

Purchased used 6 1/2 years ago from a trusty colleague and paid for within a few months, we figured it would give us extra room for the soon-to-be family of 4. It would simply be an intermediate vehicle we'd drive for a couple of years until we upgraded. Later I looked up the van in Consumer Reports only to discover that the ratings were less than hot. Far less. I wondered if we'd made a big mistake.

The paint on the bumper and fender became peely after a while, much to the embarrassment of my children who should be too young to express vehicular shame. But they have finally stopped asking when we will get a new van.

The short version of the story is this: a van we had only planned to keep for a short time, that should only have lasted a few years, has chugged along for more than twice that long (that's about 65 in Ford Windstar years) with only one repair.

Strange but I have come to love this van and the loyalty it's provided my family. I jokingly say it's "built God tough." There's no reason it should still be running. But every month it does, every month we have not had to go buy a new one, I'm thankful.

Moments of slight embarrassment still sometimes show up unannounced, but I'm pretty good now at swatting them away. Moments when I hope that others don't define me by my van. Usually I don't care but every now and then that before-I-had-kids mentality takes over and I want to crawl under the van instead of in it.

The day will come, maybe soon, when I'll have 4 doors instead of 3, when I'll wave goodbye to upholstery stains and the rogue french fry lodged in the ash tray. And though I'll be thankful for a new and improved ride and probably sit up a little straighter in the driver's seat, I'll always be grateful for the odd and humbling provision of my '98 Windstar.


Taking a little detour {and because these days I'm not posting terribly often and I don't want to forget this}, I have the BEST gift suggestion for any new moms or soon-to-be moms in your life. Enter The Padalily...

Mom-invented by my BFF, Lily, this super-stylish and comfy pad simply velcroes around the handle of the cumbersome-to-carry infant car seat. This way you can carry it in the crook of your arm without bursting a blood vessel or getting a hernia. I can't believe someone didn't think of this sooner but for Lily's sake, I'm glad they didn't!

Seriously people, I had one of these with my 3rd child and I couldn't believe the difference it made. It was so nice to have both hands free to hold the other kids' hands or to tote the many bags I'm always hauling around.

I give one to every new mom...and you should too. {But not to any mom's I'm going to give them to.} Right now, Lily is offering a special promotion: 20% off and free shipping with the code, OCTPAD. Now get shopping! The mommy-arms will thank you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pollyanna I'm Not

{Cupcake and toddling cousin helping one another out on a Thanksgiving hike.}

The best way to get your eyes off yourself is to put them on someone else. That's the sort of Pollyanna-esque stuff my mom used to tell me regularly. As a moody and narcissistic teenager, I was hardly appreciative.

I am well-intentioned at kindness but have come to the painful conclusion that I'm short on follow-through. It does not come naturally for me to just pick up the phone and find out how you're doing. I want to be that person but the older I get, the less I enjoy talking on the phone. Apparently, I've become a word-hoarder.

Come dinnertime, one of my kids is likely to ask me a question, only to be met with a blank stare. I think to myself, It's 5:00 and I've simply run out of words. As Emily said in one of my favorite posts of hers, The pressures of motherhood smoked the introvert right out of me. I wanted to shout hallelujah, relieved to know I wasn't the only former social butterfly who longed to retreat back into the chrysalis.

I'm not a complete Scrooge. Sometimes I do call, take over a meal, write a note, or send an e-mail. I care about people, just not enough to care about myself less. I am stingy with my time and energy and while I wear many hats, Mother Theresa's is not one of them.

Is it painful to admit the ugly truth about myself? Terribly. But it's also freeing. And if you know anything about 12-steps, admitting you have a problem is the first.

I've long wondered how my heart can beat as that of a humanitarian but my actions fall startlingly short. I cry when I watch the news, I want to go on every relief trip I hear about, I long for a time when I can volunteer for great causes. I rationalize that this season of my life doesn't allow for grand acts of service...but it feels like an excuse.

Over the summer I began praying a simple prayer that God would use me in the lives of others. I know my first line of charity is my family but I longed for more. Be careful what you pray. Sometimes our prayers may be answered long after we quit praying them.

I won't go into any specifics. Even if I did, you wouldn't be impressed. I haven't adopted a child or saved a village or halted abuse. There have simply been moments here and there when I've stepped out of my comfort zone to do something seemingly inconsequential and God has seen fit to bless it. My default setting is still to not pick up the phone or initiate, to let someone else fill a need that I don't have the energy or confidence to fill.

But I finally get what my mom was talking about all those years ago. Most days I'm tired and overwhelmed by the day-to-day, prone to be depressive and insular, protective of the wee bit of "me" time I'm allowed. Yes, I care for children all day long yet my own selfishness continuously taints my service even to them. Thankfully, in the rare moments that these eyes shift to the needs and concerns of those beyond my walls, the personal mountain of worries seems negligible. Perspective returns. I am blessed.

So mom, you were right. I'm just a little slow to learn.


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