The Christmas season is fully upon us.
It snuck up on me this year, with a late thanksgiving, the excitement of our ultrasound, and the stress of trying to get the house back into some semblance of order after a 1st trimester of letting things slide.
We did the usual preparations, putting out the decorations, preparing our advent calandar, wrapping the Christmas books, and writing a list of the must-dos for this month.
But the must-dos shrunk for the first part of the month.
Many days, the boys haven't even made it through the whole morning Christmas book, so busy were they chattering, and tumbling over themselves (and me) and the first couple of weeks, that really frustrated me.
We've looked for ways to give, but when you have very little time and money, even looking to give can feel very overwhelming. I've found that the best way to give at this point in my life is not to go out looking but to wait for the opportunity to fall into my lap, and then seize into it, without thinking too much. Some things are best done intentionally. Others are just meant to happen.
Most of the Christmas gifts are bought, and many are already wrapped. We're not overdoing it. The boys are getting 2 presents each (one an identical $10 present that I tacked on as an impulse). We've really tried to stay within what is a pretty limited budget, with the pressure of summer's unpaid maternity leave and impending preschool and childcare costs looming in the fall.
And this week, the Christmas spirit has finally arrived.
The past few days, when our Christmas book was interrupted, I just shut it, and joined in the wrestling match. When the boys wanted to play with rocks instead of painting Christmas tree cards, I smiled and played with rocks with them.
We made peppermint scented candy cane playdough and a gingerbread loaf and I didn't worry about the mess.
We took a windy walk in the radio flyer, drinking apple cider, down the most lit up street in town, and I think that was when Christmas finally hit us. It's rare that we go out in the car after dark, even in the winter time, and the boys were mesmerized by all of the lit up houses we passed.
This was the first year that they've really gotten excited on our light walk too, especially Aquaman, pointing at everything, enthralled by it. There were at least 2 manger scenes too, which was really encouraging.
Aquaman struggles with the point of pretending Santa Claus. We have of course explained to him that he is not real, just something fun to pretend, but he is very black and white, and sees only truth and lies. It has been very hard to explain to him that it is the kids' at school's moms and dads who need to tell their kids that Santa is not real, NOT Aquaman. He has done his best to set every classmate straight. He simply can't bear to see them living a lie. ;)
That same candor has made him quite the evangelist as well. I just hope he can do it in a little less, ahem, Pharisee-like manner as he matures.
But even Aquaman had to accept the magical-ness of the lit up street, especially as we slowly circled back through in the car, and Linus's rendition of Luke 2 came through the radio. We all sat hushed almost all the way home (well, the Dude passed out, to be exact), and after I tucked in the Dude, and came down to spend a few minutes with Aquaman before he went to bed, he asked me to turn on more Christmas music. "Oh come, oh come Emmanuel" was on.
Our advent calandar this year has 1 Christmas verse in it each night, and we have been talking about them a lot. The one from the night before had been about "Emmanuel", God with us. He wanted to talk about it. What did it mean? And there was something so soft and unafraid and understanding in his eyes, for one of the first times when I talked about Jesus to him. When I told him how Jesus's birth was so special because He was God's way of showing us that God is not just some scary far-away powerful being, He is love and peace and joy to all of His people.
Aquaman just won a "Character Counts" award for showing respect at school, and respect is something he has always shown to God and Jesus. But that night, talking about Emmanuel, was one of the first times I've seen his gentle and affectionate side touched by Jesus. If that doesn't get a mother into the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will.
Yesterday, I found myself, as I sometimes do, getting ahead of myself- wondering- what will next fall be like? An extra child. More expenses from childcare, requiring more work. How will there be any time?
How will I be the mother that I want to be?
We don't really fit in any demographic. I'm not the working mother who enrolls their kids in every activity and experience they can. My kids are mostly going to have to be ok with a free education, and learning to swim and surf from mom and dad. I definitely don't fit in the make-everything-from-scratch bracket either. Given my limited time from working, if the choice is to make something or just spend time with my kids, I'm going to choose my kids every time.
Sometimes I feel like I've gotten in way over my head, and it's in those moments that I know that I am right where I am supposed to be. What matters is today, and today, everything is amazing. And God always always works out tomorrow. After all the worrying, yesterday afternoon we picked up Aquaman from school, and for the next 3 hours there was just nonstop giggling and playing and love, and my mommy heart knew that God was telling me: it was enough. I didn't know how we'd do it with Aquaman- until 2 weeks before his birth JT had a job with no benefits, and I had no choice but to work full-time.
I didn't know how we'd do it with The Dude. I worried about how much less attention Aquaman would get, and how we'd pay for preschool. Now I see that The Dude was one of the greatest gifts we could have given Aquaman, and that eating meat only a couple days a week to save money actually keeps you pretty lean and makes you feel pretty good too.
Emmanuel will provide as He always has.
Last night I had the privilege of rocking all 3 boys for about 10 minutes. Aquaman, who is now so independent and too-big-for-me so often during the day, all burrowed into one side of me. He has shown me how quickly it goes. And that whatever sacrifice I have to make to feel that I have invested as much of my time in them when they are small is not in vain.
I don't regret his toddlerhood. I felt like I did everything I could to be there for it. Yesterday, as I got down on the floor to play trains with The Dude while Aquaman was at school, I felt that same sense of peace.
I know God will make a way, if I am open to it, for me to make the most of whatever time I am given with our littlest boy as well.
And as he has divided the fish and loaves of our money, he will so divide the even more valuable doses of time and energy.
Aquaman soon went to his own bed, and I was left with The Dude and the little squirmy one inside of me, who seemed to be already asleep. I know I'll soon have to wean the rocking to sleep of my overgrown baby, but I'll miss those last few minutes before he goes to sleep. When he strokes my face and says "I wuvs ya Mommy. And you're cute. And I like your pretty mouth, and your tummy. Let me kiss it."
Today JT has to work again. Tomorrow he's off, and though we have 2 Christmas parties to attend, we might skip them both for a date since that also happens to be the time we could land a babysitter.
This morning I'm taking the boys to the mall. We packed a picnic of peanut butter, peppers, and bananas and might splurge on some ice cream. We won't have to wait in line for Santa, because they're both desperately afraid of him. We don't have any more presents to buy, just some goggles for Daddy because his just broke, so we can just watch the flurry, and look at the decorations, and thank God for these few moments we have to celebrate together.