Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Vigil

This makes our ninth Christmas, and our fifth disrupted by puking. However, it seems to have been of the fairly mild variety, as only one was seriously affected. It was still enough to make us think we should avoid infants and the elderly, which translated into all church and family gatherings. So we have stayed at home. (I wanted to say "quietly" at home, but that would be absurd.) We followed Santa's flight with NORAD.

DOB is one of those men who saves Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. He is the rare variety who is able to do this and still find astounding deals on just the perfect gifts. Including for himself. (Like Deux, he feels much safer picking out his own presents.) This is a good thing, because once he's bought the thing, twenty-four hours is right at his limit for not spilling the beans.

Personally, I generally come up with one of three kinds of gifts: the kind where I think of the perfect thing in August and forget what it was; the kind where I think of the perfect thing at midnight on Christmas Eve; and the kind where I never think of anything at all. Occasionally I actually buy the perfect thing early and then lose it.

So we were up very late last night wrapping gifts. We had figured out the perfect plan for the morning, especially since we weren't rushing off to family gatherings and church: we had small gifts and trail mix in the kids' stockings, and they could play and snack until we were ready to get up. We told them, "When you get up in the morning, you can take your stockings into your room and play quietly until we get up." This was reinforced with a note from Santa on top the stockings.

Secure in the knowledge of this preparation, we tumbled into bed at midnight.

At three a.m., we heard rustling and giggling in the living room. By the time we had roused to the point of moving, the stockings were back in the room, the contents were unwrapped, and everyone was eagerly digging into the trail mix. We pointed out that it was not anything remotely resembling morning yet, and put them back to bed with a CD playing, hoping they would fall asleep.

At four thirty, we were finally drifting back to sleep when we heard more whispers and giggles in the living room. I went out to find them under the lighted Christmas tree. I sent them back to bed with baleful warnings of what would happen if they moved again before at least seven o'clock. (Specifically, that we wouldn't open the gifts until AFTER breakfast.) That did the trick.

After all that wee-hours rambling, I was especially appreciative to discover DOB had found me a warm new robe. In red, not bland white nor icky pastels.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a Wrap

As I write this, the Duchess is wrapping presents. This is a very good development. She still wants me to cut out the paper, but she'll do the rest. It doesn't look quite as good as I would do it. Probably by next year she will have surpassed me and I am willing to put up with the training period.

We took the kids to the dollar store this afternoon to pick out presents for each other. This has been a tradition since the Duchess was four and picked out the ever-famous Purple Bear for Deux, who has loved it devotedly ever since. You can get some good stuff at the dollar store. Deux took a turn at it next year and this year the twins also made an attempt.

Dash is plainly in the stage where he projects his own desires on others. If it doesn't involve motorcycles or fire engines, why would anyone want it? Deux is more cagey--he realizes not everyone likes what he likes. Therefore, after consulting his pocketbook, he bought himself three things he really wanted as well as gifts for others. Dot simply wandered around happily, eagerly accepted the least suggestion I made, and called it good. Duchess picked out suitable gifts and wrapped them all herself. Except for the cutting. She did express concern that her gifts not break within a week this year, as they did last year.

I gave Dash the chance to wrap his presents, and there were several minutes of tears as he had apparently thought he was going to get to wrap gifts for himself and was devastated to see the same old things he had chosen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blackberry Season

Blackberries are a summer fruit, but taking out blackberries is a winter chore. There's not much else to do. It's easier to trace and disentangle the vines with less foliage about. And it's more pleasant to wear the padded armor suitable to the task.

It's also a job I love. It contains none of those fussy details, fine-motor skills, or decision-making requirements of other manual labor. Nor does it require tremendous brute strength. Just stubbornness and complete indifference to pain. It's vegetarian dragon slaying. Attack and destroy. And it involves sharp implements.

Even better, it's a job that the kids prefer to observe from a respectful distance. When I'm whipping about a forty-foot length of vine with inch-long spikes, I never find myself suddenly tackled at the knees. And since it involves clearing new play places among the underbrush, they are happy to occupy themselves.

And it even seems rather Christmassy. At least, the third verse of Joy to the World sounds appropriate.

Earlier this week I cleared out around the base of a Douglas fir still young enough to have the lower branches to serve as a good climbing tree. They've been playing Boxcar Children there all week. But then they picked up a stack of Magic Treehouse books at the library on Tuesday, and sat down and read them, assembly-line, all afternoon.

So today, Deux was on fire to build a treehouse. I posited that I would take the matter under advisement, but he protested. He didn't want to do it someday, he wanted to do it now. I pointed out that such complex activities required planning. He agreed: we should plan it today and build it tomorrow. I suggested that we didn't have the right materials, such as lumber or nails, or the right kinds of trees. (Douglas fir grow rather spindly branches at weak angles.)

He hunted up a single board that had been discarded in the bushes. I found some nails and a hammer. We put a shelf up in the tree. It's enough of a fort for now. I don't know if it's capable of magical transportation or not.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Waiting for Christmas

The ducklings are just at the age for full, unrelenting, uninhibited, luxuriant enjoyment of Christmas. They wallow in it. The tree must always be lighted, the music must all be Christmas, every moment is one of calculations of when and how Christmas will arrive or begging me to undertake this or that Christmas activity. Gifts are part of it, yes, but really only a minor part, and a very non-caluclating part. (They were giddy for days over the toothbrushes and wind-up-toys St. Nicholas left in their boots.) They revel in the whole of the season.

I was that child, too. It is part of the fun of being a parent to live through all that over again.

Somewhere on the road to growing up, like most of us, I lost the ability to exuberate like that. For many years Christmas passed tinged with a bit of regret that it never quite measured up to the Christmases of childhood.

Lately, I have come to realize that regret and disappointment had a place, too. And its place is in Advent. Advent is waiting. Not just the impatient, gleeful waiting of children rattling gifts to discover what is inside.

It is the frustrated waiting of the oppressed, who have returned to the Promised Land only to find that they still cannot live in freedom.

It is the fearful waiting of parents for the coming of a child after a stillbirth.

It is the waiting of the sick, the weary, the injured, waiting for justice, for healing, for rest.

It is waiting that knows that waiting is not just about time, but about loss and danger, about all the ways the world has broken its promises, over and over.

Hope is only hope if we do not yet have the thing we hope for. And Advent is the time to know that now is not yet the time. Our redemption is begun, but not complete.

And I have found in accepting the waiting, in not trying to rush myself into jollity, that I have made room for hope again, and so for joy.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

All's Well that Ends Well

Next year, I won't schedule the kids' annual checkups for the first week of December.

I didn't do it this year. Initially, I scheduled them in October (I hate to schedule them while the weather might still be nice. Who wants to mess up a beautiful day with a well-child checkup?) But then the doctor was out of the office and we thought maybe we had chicken pox briefly, so they got rescheduled until now.

It's amazing how much of the week a simple checkup can eat up. (Well, OK, three simple checkups. Duchess is on the off-year.) My hat is off to mothers who must do regular doctor and therapy visits.

It's also amazing how differently different children react. The conversations went like this.

QOC: Deux, we're going to go to the doctor this week. He's just going to check you to see how you are growing. You don't need a shot or anything this time. There's a really fun car rug in the waiting room.

Deux: Nooooo! I don't want to. Do we have to go?

QOC: Dash, we're going to the doctor this week. You're going to get a shot, which means the doctor will poke you with a needle that will help keep you from getting sick. It will hurt.

Dash: Yay! I love getting shot!

However, we all survived. I actually really like taking the kids to the doctor, because I really like their doctor, who is very sensible and similar in philosophy and had four kids of his own (some time ago, I would guess). We swap book and movie recommendations. He always makes the boys laugh. (Dot pulled a princess and refused to be amused.)

Dot continues to insist that she never got her shot, that it has been indefinitely postponed. Perhaps she was disappointed that it did not, as she had hoped, turn her teeth pink.

Anyway, adding to that a dinner party, two playdates, the usual shopping, a couple of extra necessary trips out, and the beginning of Advent, and trying to keep on track to finish school in time for Christmas break, and it has been a very long week. At least this week we don't have to go to the doctor. I hope.