Aww ‘tis the season. You can smell it in the air, cinnamon and fireplaces. You can see it in the cherubic rosy cheeks of children and the sparkle in their dancing eyes. You can hear it in the cursing and grunting of our mail carrier as he attempts to shove a stack of darling embellished Christmas cards and letters in our ridiculously tiny, albeit, adorable mail box. The season is upon us.
I have a confession. I’m hiding all of the cards and letters. Can’t handle how shiny and coifed you all AND YOUR CHILDREN are. When did you find a day when no one had pink eye or green snot? How was it not windy? Why isn’t at least one person crying? How are you all matching? And when did your kid start using hair product and get an actual haircut that didn’t happen during a round of monthly buzz cuts from dad?? There may have been a memo saying it was time for us to grow up, but more than likely a baby ate it, a toddler hid it, or a preschooler deleted it.
Second confession, we have exactly 87 million Christmas ornaments and not one of them is on the tree.
I did not start out as Scrooge. Really! We even had a tree trimming party, danced to Christmas music and decorated.
And then that day.
Friday, December 9th 2016 shall live in infamy in the memories of our family.
I found out I had Strep the day before and made appointments to get our kiddos checked at 9:00 Friday morning. Strep gets passed around our family like a bottle of Hot Damn at a highsch…I mean, college bonfire. Four out of five kids tested positive and since it was a Friday we knew the other kid would likely come down with an acute case at 5:01 after their office closed, so our pediatrician called in antibiotics for all of the kiddos. Here’s an interesting fact: when your pharmacy calls to say your prescriptions are ready, they do not mean children’s antibiotics are already mixed. Also, a ten day course of amoxicillin comes in two bottles.
For us that was ten bottles that needed mixing, while we sat in the drive thru, with a carload of sick (read MEAN) children while an elderly man in the car behind us honked and hollered things that were definitely NOT seasons greetings. He did mention God and Jesus, I just don’t think he knows them. I offered to pull around, but the pharmacist firmly told me the man needed to wait his turn and that we needed to finish our transaction.
When we got home I gave the kiddos all their first round of meds, fed them lunch and then started to make the brownies I promised to bring to a Ladies Christmas party I was going to that evening. While getting the ingredients down I accidentally pulled down a Costco sized container of sprinkles. It hit the counter of our open-concept kitchen and burst forth. Teeny tiny dots of multicolored sugar all over the kitchen and living room. The children, delirious with fever, thought it was like confetti and a parade as I stood, horror struck, that i couldn’t even begin to think of the best way to handle this. So i barricaded the kiddos in the playroom, and began the painfully slow clean up process. I tried sweeping but the sprinkles were so tiny they just scattered and neither type of broom I had could get them. They also were either possessed by some sort of magnetic energy or by Satan himself because every time I brought the vacuum wand near, half of them would scatter. It took half an hour to get most of them (we are still finding them).
Ok, back to the brownies. I stepped out to the fridge in the garage to get another carton of eggs to find our dogs had lost their dang minds. They were in the garage because it was cold outside and by way of thanks they found the 50 pound bag of dog food and gorged themselves on it and then barfed and relieved themselves all over the garage with reckless abandon.
After I thoroughly cleaned our garage, I went back inside, cleaned myself up and was ready to tackle those Christmas party brownies. Tra la la la… what does my baby have in his hand and mouth? Christmas ornaments. Oh gosh…
I went to our real tree to find nearly all the ornaments had been pulled off compliments of our two year old and 15 month old. They had used my distractions to full revelry. Even cleverly commandeering the chairs from the barricade I had made to help them reach higher on the tree than ever before. Ornaments and pine needles everywhere.
This is the part of the story where I recognized these situations were teachable moments and I sat my darling children down and explained to them about sin and why we celebrate this time of year, that our mistakes are why Jesus was born, that this season reminds us of grace we could never deserve.
Um no. I went back in the garage, yanked the attic ladder down, grabbed the empty ornament tote and threw every dang ornament back in there and snatched the rest off the tree, too. I climbed back up the ladder awkwardly and huffily and threw that tote back in the attic. Then I vacuumed up all the pine needles and surveyed our now forlorn Charlie Brown looking tree with lights barely clinging to bare branches.
I held back tears, baked brownies, cooked dinner, gave medicine to kids, gave baths to babies, wiped my armpits with baby wipes and reapplied deodorant because there was no time for a shower, and waited for the firefighter to come home.
I flung myself into his arms and ugly cried about the day. Then I grabbed the brownies, and the gifts I was taking to the party and ran away. I mean, I went to the Christmas party. As I drove I imagined what my sweet husband was walking around the house to find…
Our clear canister vacuum full to the brim with pineneedles and rainbow sprinkles. The most joyless Christmas tree in all the land. The stockings no longer hanging from the mantle but balled up on the floor of our room. The kitchen a disaster from the brownies I made and took away. I imagine it was a shock to his senses to realize he was married to a real life version of The Grinch.
At the party I fell apart and just shared the craziness. I’m generally awkward at parties, but I would say this was definitely my shining moment in buzzkillery. And on that lighthearted note, we played our stealing Santa game. I opened my chosen gift to find a simple frame outlining a handmade canvas with the word “pray.” painted in large typewriter font. It was so pure and simple and in that moment reminded me that I don’t have to carry everything. I have an open invitation to crawl into the arms of my Father and weep and be comforted. That the moments that are too much are too much because I’m not seeing them with the wisdom of timeless Grace, that these moments are only that and that my Father delights in me. And I know that day was only ridiculous and not earth shattering, but when I share the small hardships with Him it softens me to share the too high mountains and deep, impossible canyons.
Also, no one dared steal that gift from me.
Post Script: As soon as I got home that night our baby started crying. We walked in to find him and all his bedding covered in vomit. We spent the entire night bathing and comforting him and changing his bedding and cleaning up puke. All night long. And then two nights later the other four kids came down with it and took turns vomiting all night long. Children do not vomit any color but red and it is their duty to vomit more in their bed, on themselves and carpet than in the toilet or provided trash cans. There were at least 15 loads of laundry completely dedicated to that weekend of stomach bug. There was carpet cleaning and disinfecting EVERYTHING. And doing it all, lovingly and gently on very little sleep. At the level of stress I had left my house on Friday, if my heart hadn’t been changed, I don’t want to imagine how ugly and bitter my heart would have become. Instead, in the thick of it, we found times to giggle, to come together, and to be thankful.
But we still don’t have ornaments on the tree. And next year we are getting a fake one. And maybe we will send out a Christmas card, but it’ll probably have to be with a picture of our feet, cuz that many faces is too hard.
Merry Christmas from the Park Family!