Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Lazy Elf: Finally Jumping on the Elf on the Shelf Bandwagon

I didn't really know that the Elf on the Shelf was a thing that lots of people did until this year.  I had seen the books at the store and an occasional post on Facebook by my friends who I deem "super-parents" (in a very positive way!).  I had seen a few fun ideas on Pinterest of the Elf fishing in the toilet or making snow angels in a pile of powdered sugar.  But I honestly had no idea that the Elf was so mainstream.  Until this year.  The year my youngest started Kindergarten.

This has been my "Elf" journey to date: A few days after Thanksgiving break, Ben came home and said "A lot of my friends have real elves in their houses.  They do funny things.  If you touch them they lose their magic.  But you can talk to them.  They make sure you are good for Santa."  Huh.  Cool, I said.  And figured that was the end of it.

Then day after day, Ben came home talking about the "elf" and what it was up to at his friend's houses and that he was sure he was around our home too.  Yesterday, while brushing his teeth, Ben said "this toothpaste tastes funny.  My friend told his elf to come to our house.  I bet he did and the elf messed with my toothpaste."  And that is when I caved.

All debates about "lying" to our kids vs. encouraging healthy imaginations and belief in "magic" aside, I do think the Elf on the Shelf is a cute idea.  I never outright told my kids that Santa was not real, but I never really worked hard to dupe them either.  I asked my older boys this morning (when little guy was out of the room) when they stopped believing in Santa.  They both basically said it just crept up on them and they never had a moment when they were traumatized or felt like they had been lied to.  Phew.  Of course, the older two never believed in the Elf on the Shelf.  (a quick note...I tried to tell Ben that the Elf is a toy and that other families pretend to have an elf and it is fun but just using imaginations...he looked at me like I was nuts. "Mom, they are real elves." And I refuse to be the Mom on Miracle on 34th street who forces her child to not believe).

We don't have the 30 dollars to spend on the little elf doll, and I bet there are other families out there who don't either (or who prefer to spend it another way).  So the older boys and I put our heads together and came up with some ways to do a little "Elf Magic" without a lot of money or fuss.  I made a little list of our ideas - all of which are pretty easy and don't require an actual doll.  Plus a couple bonus ideas for those who have the doll and don't feel up to being creative every single day.  I mean, "Elf" success in the home is directly related to the creativity and energy of the parent, as well as the imagination and willingness of the child to have fun and go with the flow when needed.  I really love seeing the fun things some parents come up with - but this list is for the rest of us.

Lazy and "NO ELF" ideas.
1. Our elf first officially made his debut today, 6 days before Christmas.  (Anyone can be creative for 6 days, right?)
2.  Our elf will return to the North Pole on the night before Christmas Eve.  He will leave a note for Ben to find the morning of the 24th saying "Heading back...great job being good! I had fun spreading Christmas cheer at your house but now it is up to you!  And remember the true source of Christmas joy is Jesus - the baby born for all of us, who we celebrate this season."
3. Our elf has help from the 11 and 13 year olds in my home.  This makes things MUCH easier for Mom and Dad.
4. He will be toilet papering the tree, drawing a red nose on the kid in the middle of the night, and wrapping the toilet in wrapping paper - but will never be seen.  
5. His "grand finale" will be on December 23rd but we have yet to determine what that will be.  The 13 year old wants to wrap our entire house in tinsel...
6. If you have an elf but need a few days off, leave a note like this: "Dear (kid), there's been an emergency at the North Pole - be back in a few days!  (from your Elf).
7. Another good one: after some high-wire shenanigan like toilet papering the tree or hanging paper snowflakes from the chandelier, set your elf on the shelf with a cast on his/her leg and a note "Doc says I need to stay put for a bit...will be up and around again in a day/week/month! (depending on how ambitious you are/aren't feeling).
8.  Two very baaaad ideas that my older boys think are good ideas: Draw a chalk outline of an elf on the ground with some caution tape.  Or, have someone say, "I think I just flushed an elf down the toilet..."
9. If you want an elf but can't afford one, use a different elf - one you make or get at the dollar tree and tell your kids "if all the elves looked alike, what fun would that be?" Or borrow an elf while he is on vacation or sick leave from another kid's house.  Or be creative and do the "Bear on the Stairs" or the "Doll in the Hall" (although those sound a little creepy to me..).
10.  Don't overthink if you don't want to.  Go crazy overboard if you want to.  A friend wrote on my FB post where I was debating "To Elf or Not to Elf" that 'the world gets harsh soon enough, let him enjoy the wonder!'

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Came Early

Thirteen and a half years ago, on March 4, 2000, I began to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.  That was the day that my oldest son was born.

I did not have dreams of motherhood as a young girl.  I really never thought I would be a mom, until I met and fell in love with my future husband.  Ryan loves kids and when I married him, I figured kids might be a part of a package deal.  They were.  God has a sense of humor or he likes to teach us lessons, or both.  I found out our oldest was on the way just shy of our second anniversary, and about 3 years earlier than I had planned for.  To top it off he was a premie by 5 weeks - I was robbed of 5 entire weeks of non-motherhood!

I did mothering by the book.  Really, by the book.  "What to expect when you are expecting" got replaced on the shelf by "what to expect in the first year..." I read it faithfully, but my heart was rarely in the game.  I felt like this little guy had stolen me from myself and replaced me with a milk factory and a nanny-housekeeper.  I loved him and cared for him, but deep down and sometimes very openly would talk about the "light at the end of the tunnel."  The day I would send him off to school or that he would fly from the nest and let me be..

When boy 2 arrived on the scene two and a half years later, I still had not quite gotten the "mommy" thing down.  Boy 2 had cholic.  He was intense and sensitive and cried a LOT.  If I was merely bored at this point of playing on the playground and pushing cars around with my two year old, the boredom was now quickly replaced by despair and borderline insanity.  But this too shall pass, I thought.  I received two pieces of advice on a regular basis - one - that this crazy baby-toddler-diaper-food on the ceiling stage would go quickly and before I know it life will be easier!  The light at the end of the tunnel...  The other advice I received was that it would go quickly, therefore I should slow down and enjoy my kids while they are little and not wish their littleness away...I didn't really believe or take either completely to heart.

Boy 3 (Benny) changed all that for me.  It is sad to admit but I think I wasn't 100% mom to all three of our boys until the day Ben was born.  Ian was nearly five and Isaac was 7.  I held Ben in my arms (he was also premature and lived in NICU for 21 days) and realized that the other two were no longer babies.  It donned on me finally, that time keeps moving forward and the boys will never grow younger.  I enjoyed every stage that Ben went through.  When he was one, Ian started kindergarten, and that began five years of me and Ben at home while the other two were in school.  I became very involved in the boy's school that year and took personal interest in each of them.  I began praying daily that I would see the passions and talents of each boy and help to cultivate those in them.  Even though sometimes exhausted and bored, and occasionally wondering about that elusive "light," I also stopped seeing motherhood as a "time-out" from my real life that would somehow resume once the kids were out of the house.  I embraced it as the life that God has given me and the charge I have to nurture and love these boys.

I write today, because tomorrow Benny starts full day kindergarten.  This is the day, the one I have been waiting for - 13 1/2 years of waiting!  It is supposed to be my light at the end of the tunnel.  The pay-off for all that hard mommy work.  I joked today that I was heading straight to the store tomorrow to buy bon-bons (if that is outdated then Ben and Jerry's!) and then taking a nap.  Okay, I really might do that.  But one thing has hit me hard this week.  My kids were all born early.  And I think my light at the end of the tunnel also came early for me.  I think it came 6 years ago, when Benny came into this world. I began to really see my boys.  Loud and whiny, rock throwing and dog hugging, wrestling and wall climbing, homework frustration and Christmas morning anticipation, legos on the stairs, and the toilet seat up, the army guy frozen in a cup of water in the freezer..teen angst, slammed doors, RV trips and fishing for hours, kissing boo boos and pulling my hair out in frustration...always something funny to post on facebook...This is the good life - even the annoying and tiring parts of it.

 I wish we could all figure that out the day our first child comes home.  Some do, but I know I did not.  This post isn't about how I am JUST now getting it, because despite my posts about wanting to sell our children, they are in jest (mostly) and I have spent the last 6 years enjoying them.  Tomorrow isn't the light, but it also isn't the end.  This train just keeps moving and I will hopefully appreciate all the scenery along the way!  (Benny good luck tomorrow - I love you sweetie. )

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hedonism for the Introvert

I am an extreme introvert, which could also just be my physiological and psychological excuse for being an anti-social recluse-monestary-living wannabe who is afraid of public failure and would prefer to keep her nose in a book at all times.  But I really think it is just that God created me to be an introvert.  As an introvert, every time I interact with people, it has to make sense.  It has to have a purpose or else it is sucking me dry of all my energy for no good reason.  As an introverted pastor's wife, I won't can be a challenge.  I often make a bee-line for the ladies room as soon as service is over.  One, because coffee before church equals the need to make a beeline for the ladies room.  Two, because I can hide for a few minutes and pull myself together before going out to "mingle" with people.

I will write more about this later, as I happen to be reading an excellent book titled "Introverts in the Church" lent to me by a fellow introvert.

Today I want to write a bit about the last two days and my Introverted Recovery and Detox.  You see, I also have low blood sugar.  If any of you have low blood sugar issues you know that when your blood sugar dips, you get jittery, anxious, spacey and may possibly lose some coherency and some social skills to boot.  An introvert on people-overload looks a lot like someone with low blood sugar.  And there are times when it gets extreme.  Ryan was out of the country for two weeks and when he returned and went back to work, our kids went on Spring Break.  I was on stimulus Overdose.  Sometimes I calmly ask for an hour or two "time-out" in my room or to go on a walk...other times I demand that they all leave town.  Thankfully God gave me three boys so I can suggest "wouldn't a boy's weekend be fun?"  But usually I have lost all social skills when it gets really bad and I can't utter a complete sentence therefore it comes out more like..." sleep..."

So I sent them away for two days.  And this is what I did:  Yesterday I ate Ben and Jerry's chocolate brownie ice cream while looking at a facebook post about how nobody ever regrets eating healthy.  This was at breakfast.  I chain-watched movies on netflix until I found a new TV series to chain-watch on netflix.  I wore my pajamas all day.  I ate carrots out of a bag and crackers with my favorite dip for lunch and dinner.  I didn't do dishes or laundry or vacuum or run errands or talk on the phone or even email.  I did whatever I wanted.  Whatever felt good at the time.  As an introvert I felt better and better as yesterday went by and had no human interaction.  From time to time the thought hit me that Ryan is preaching on Hedonism this Sunday - the pursuit of pleasure over all else.  I sort of laughed about the irony while eating my chips and salsa and drinking coffee at 10 pm last night.  By 2 am I finally willed my slightly addictive-personality self to turn off the computer and admit that I cannot watch 100 episodes of this show in one night...I woke up to a silent house.  And it was really nice.

As an introvert I need those times of recovery and the permission to do nothing.  By this morning, while I was tired from staying up all night, I was also refreshed.  I walked around the house, opening windows.  I turned on itunes to my favorite worship music and started making french macarons (which if you know anything about french macarons you know this is NOT hedonism but more a form of me they are harder than they look).

My rested ears, which had not listened to kids or teachers or neighbors or anyone else for 24 hours was struck by the phrase "avalanche of grace..." in the song that was playing.  I sat down heavily and for the next hour listened to God's voice speaking to me and filling the hollowness of my soul.  Sound cheesy?  I doubt any honest person would say they don't know what I mean.  A day of living completely for myself left me feeling empty.

I still feel I need that alone time.  And truth be told, my hand is held up to God sometimes too..."wait...please...let me sit in silence" I say to Him.  I felt His grace this  morning - as if he was just sitting in the corner watching me do my thing.  And then when all the noise was cleared out, when I was no longer the overwhelmed introvert with no capacity to let anything else in, then He joined me.

It felt good yesterday to empty myself out.  And then it also felt good to know I am not the center of all things and my life and pleasures is not all there is.  I don't think my relationship with God is as rich when I don't pull back at times.  A little **hedonism can go a long way.

(ps I am using the term very lightly here...not a theology or psych paper or an endorsement...) :)