Category Archives: JOY in 2012

Joy, week 49

Week 49.  Week FORTY-NINE!  Am I the only one who’s a little bit stunned by that number?  I can hardly believe that the year is almost gone.  And yet, there is still so much to savor.  Perhaps that’s part of the gift of this season… we have so much to enjoy that we can’t get too caught up in what’s ending.  I still have 22 days of loving my family to go in 2012.  What a gift!

As I type this, the children have been put to bed.  Not that they’re asleep, of course.  Behind me sit my husband and our oldest two children all piled together on the couch watching old videos of them snowboarding.  While I’m not watching, their hearty laughter makes me laugh too.  Time.  Such a precious thing, and it’s been a wonderful day where time is concerned.

I’ve thought a lot about Christmas this year and decided that while I have a long list of goals ranging from tasks around the house to gifts to make and give to events to attend and everything in between, all I really want is for it to FEEL like Christmas.  Everywhere I go this month people have been saying that it doesn’t feel like Christmas because it’s so warm outside.  Part of me has been tempted to agree, but as quickly as that comment rises to my lips my heart yells out, “No!”  The feeling of Christmas can’t depend on snow… too many people celebrate Christmas happily in warm climates for that to be true.  So it must be that I alone am responsible for whether it feels like Christmas to me.  With that thought foremost in mind, we’re doing all we can to make it feel like Christmas here, and that has meant slowing down, hanging out together in the family room, playing lots of ping pong, reading a lot of stories and cranking the Christmas music.  Dim lights and a Christmas tree in the room are a huge bonus.   My lists are taking second place to the feeling we want in our home and while I feel many moments of distress at how “behind” I am, I can’t help feeling “ahead” when I’m sitting on the couch with several children leaning on me, all of them fallen asleep during the last Christmas story of the night.

Today several of us took long naps on the couch.  The little ones played song after song as they danced in front of the tree.  We listened to our children play the recital pieces they’ve been working on.  We were standing in the kitchen when we all looked at each other and decided on the spot that it was the perfect night to scrap the planned menu and make breakfast for dinner.  And so we did, pancakes, homemade buttermilk syrup, machacas (I have no idea how to spell that), hash browns, yogurt and, of all things, Pomegranate 7Up to drink.  I loved having the children help me cook, loved singing along with them from the kitchen while they danced.   Even my fifteen year old son did an unexpected solo performance for his little sisters that drew hearty laughter from around the house.  I looked around mid-way through my preparations and thought, “This is joy.  This is Christmas.”   So I told them all how it felt to me, that this feeling is all I want for Christmas, and that we are so incredibly blessed to have such a feeling in our home.   When we sat down to eat our feast that same goofy fifteen year old said, “Thanks, Mom!  This is the best Christmas ever!”  Of course that was followed by plenty of hints as to what he wants for Christmas, but I hope at least they heard what I was saying.  We lingered at the table as our oldest daughter shared with us the dream she had last night, in which we had gone to the beach house for our vacation and as we took the children to the water I said to them in a very kind, sweet voice, “Now be careful while you’re swimming because there are sea serpents in the water.”  She said she didn’t want to go in and I said, “But you have to!”  So she went to the water’s edge, lifted the wave like the sheet on a bed, and looked under the wave to see all the serpents scurrying around like a colony of earwigs when their hiding place is uncovered.  She applied the old poem about colors on snakes to figure out which serpents were poisonous before deciding the whole thing freaked her out and she turned to run.  Oh, we all laughed so hard!  Everyone else started sharing stories of their strange dreams and it was just so funny, so healthy, so… perfect.

Let’s see… what did the week hold?  A return to physical therapy for my daughter whose pain is back.  Two children  home from school sick this week.  A quick hour spent with my two sisters before one of them flew back home to Denver.   My husband and I enjoyed a quick date to watch our daughter’s choir concert.  A Christmas party with our ward (church congregation), during which I enjoyed two heartfelt conversations with friends.  A bit of Christmas shopping.  Lots of driving.  Lots of laundry.  Many moments when I honestly looked at my life and saw how inadequate I am, and yet things worked out with the Lord’s help.

Three times in the past week I’ve had a friend stop by my house unexpectedly.  The circumstances were different every time.  With one friend we stood on my driveway in the dark and just talked.  With another we stood in my entry.  Another came in and we chatted while my girls ran in circles and she kindly ignored my very dirty house.  All of them were sacred pauses in my life, islands in the sea of busy that sweeps us away.  All of them were sincere, heart-to-heart, full of love and compassion, tears-brimming-over conversations.  I’ve had the strongest feeling this week that I do not deserve this. I don’t deserve these wonderful women in my life, and yet I love them all fiercely and am determined to give more.  I’ve been reading a great book about giving and am trying to give more freely, in more meaningful ways.  To be on the receiving end of these treasured encounters was, quite simply, priceless.  To have the opportunity to sit with women I admire and vocally express our faith in God and in his plan, complicated as it sometimes seems, was a fire by which we warmed our hearts.

I really do have a lot to get done this next week.  I’m full of hope that I’ll be able to get some basics taken care of.  I’d like to finish my Christmas shopping, and I still haven’t got my Christmas cards in the mail.  Lots to do, but it’s good stuff.  Oh yeah, and we have a science project to do.  A necessary evil in my opinion.  We have some big things in the air and we’re hoping some of the balls fall this week.  It would be nice to have a better idea what the future looks like.  Either way, our future is bright as long as we’re together and as long as we trust the Lord.  Which we do.  And that, also, is joy.

Wishing you a joy-filled, Christmas-ey week,
Jennifer

Joy, week 48

The lights in our house are dim.  A small Christmas tree in the other room glimmers cheerfully.  Downstairs I hear my parents playing ping pong with my children.  In a few minutes we will all gather together to listen to our Church leaders speak about Christmas and then the season will really feel like it’s begun.  We’ll sit together, some of us wiggly and some of us content, all piled together with popcorn and Christmas quilts and bask in just being together.

What a great weekend it’s been!  My parents flew to town and we’ve loved every minute of being with them.  Our son who turned twelve received the priesthood this weekend and it was very special.  I’m so proud of him.  We’ve also enjoyed spending time with my brother and his family and my sister and her husband drove down from Logan to spend time with us as well.  We did a bit of shopping, lots of talking, lots of shaking our heads and laughing at the two teenagers in my home who have passionate opinions about everything that anyone says or does.

I was able to finish a few gifts and give them away early and it felt great.  In the past I often “save” a gift until Christmas, but in the last few weeks I’ve been giving more gifts right now, just for fun, and it has been wonderful.  I’m grateful to have a few things crossed off my list and taken care of, which gives me renewed energy to work on the projects I haven’t finished.  I’m still hoping to make each of my children a quilt for Christmas.  I have four quilt tops finished, one of them partly quilted, two more quilt tops cut out and waiting to be pieced, and two that I’m a bit stumped on so I haven’t even started them.  They’re all VERY simple in design and construction, but the funny thing is that all my children care about is that there’s minky fabric on the back.  So I’m going to keep working on them and hope I can finish.  Getting up an hour early to sew before waking everyone has worked well so far and if I can keep it up I should be ok.

I’ve found myself a little wound up again lately with stress, which has probably shown in these posts.  Stress over so many things that I can’t really control, and others that I can only partially influence.  I’ve been discouraged that the emotional equilibrium I found had escaped me so suddenly.  I found that there were moments when the stress was paralyzing me, when I was standing there with a stomach ache instead of dismissing the things I can’t control and prioritizing my efforts in my circles of influence.  Calming down and having the faith in the Lord to at least not feel sick has been a major objective this week, and I’m grateful to say that it worked.  Things will work out, not likely how I hope they will, but somehow things always work out.  The knot in my stomach is gone and there’s gratitude instead.  For instance, I was feeling stressed about an expensive dental appointment coming this week; now I feel grateful that we have the chance to do this for our children.  I’ve been reminding myself, “this is why God gave us money.”  So here I sit, with a heart at peace again, wondering a little at that gift, the “peace which passes all understanding” and thinking that of all the things I enjoy, this one is one of the most valuable.

I realized that I haven’t written a thing about the JOY books I started for my children in January.  I kept it up well until we had our injuries.  First my son’s ankle and then my husband’s knee, and during all that time escaped me and before I knew it I was two months behind.  I thought about starting them again at the end of the summer but never got the habit back in place.  In fact, much of my record keeping this year has been very sporadic; even posts on this blog have been infrequent in stages.  While I don’t feel like beating myself up over it, I do feel sad.  I’ve lost a precious layer of my life, and of my children’s lives, by not recording it.  Lately I’ve found myself craving that layer, that sense of perspective and appreciation that comes with journaling.  I need to figure out what to do with the starts of those joy books and then start again.  I really love the idea, and I love what it did to my perception of them when I was writing every day.  So that goal has been a flop.  Bummer.

I want so much for this Christmas season to feel special for my children and I want it in the old-fashioned, cost-nothing way.  I hope that the next few weeks will be infused with happiness, service, being together.  That will be tricky and will take careful planning to work around recitals, concerts, deadlines and the mandatory science fair project we have to finish start.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I HATE science fair projects.  Passionately.  But we do them anyway and life goes on.

I am grateful to be alive.  I’m grateful, even, for the twists and turns that make life so unpredictable (and sometimes frustrating) but which also provide opportunity to take a deep breath and become a better person in our response.  I’m so thankful for my family and this sense of belonging we all have.  What a gift it is!

And so the season is upon us, and here comes Christmas!  Let’s enjoy it!

Jennifer

Joy, week 47

The house is a flurry of activity today.  The stimulation of cousins staying at our home seems to have everyone wound up even though they’re gone.  Noise comes from so many directions, from the girls working on a project to the little ones clearing the table, to the teenager broadcasting noise just for the fun of it.  While the children are filling the dishwasher my husband grabs me by the hand and we go sit together in the family room.  Close enough to monitor but far enough that the noise is a little less intense.

Within 30 seconds our six year old has joined us, or rather, jumped on top of us.  He chooses a book and the three of us take turns reading aloud.  Then the four year old walks downstairs with a cd player and plugs it in the nearest outlet.  “What are you listening to?” I ask.  “I’m not telling” comes the reply.  It doesn’t take long  for the sounds of a Scripture Scouts album to be blasting in the room.  Our eight year old picks up a different cd and an argument about what they’re “listening” to ensues.  Then the three year old walks through the room holding a stack of about 25 cds.  Several of us perk up at that and someone tries to rescue them from her before they’re all destroyed, which of course means that she is screaming.  We’re still trying to read a book with our six year old!  The cd battle ends with a change, sending the four year old crying to my lap.  We now have three children sitting on top of us while we read.  All of a sudden our fourteen year old daughter joins the pile.  The fifteen year old lays on the floor right next to the cd player so he can hear it more clearly.  It seems the volume is more than sufficient for him when he starts shooting a cap gun over and over again at least a hundred times.  The almost twelve year old comes out of nowhere and tackles his sister on the couch.  As we become uncomfortable under the pile of bodies I look around the room and we wonder aloud if the neighbors can hear any of this, and if so, what might they be thinking?  It’s so loud, so ridiculous that I begin laughing.  And then I can’t stop.  Bodies everywhere, half of them happy and half of them mad, most of them loud, all of them in motion.  Family life.  An awfully lot of family life going on in one room and on high volume.   Another minute or two and my husband slowly moves bodies to one side or the other as he carefully extricates himself from the pile.  He calls to our oldest and the two of them escape to the basement, leaving me alone with the noisy seven.  Suddenly the three year old has an accident on the couch right next to me and it gets even noisier as she instantly begins sobbing about her clothes and I spring to grab the kitchen towel that happens to be on the family room floor – completely out of place but very fortunately available just then.  Thus begins the trip to the bathroom, the cleaning, the finding of new clothes and the decision that it’s most definitely time to start the bedtime routine.

In the end, all of it is harmless.  The noise dies as quickly as it rose and soon we’re back to the usual hum of ten people under one roof.  Occasionally I feel like I’m just not built for the intensity of this life, but it’s what I chose.  Not that I ever thought to myself, “Hmmm, what could I do to make sure my life is incredibly loud for twenty years?” and then decided that eight children was the ticket.  I chose the children, and realized later how the sum of them all could occasionally feel like twenty.  I know I do a lousy job much of the time, but I can say this:  I get out of bed every morning and do my best.  The Lord might not be able to count on me for much, but I believe he knows that about me.  I will always get up and face it.

My three year old has matured so much in the past two weeks.  (A funny thing to write, I realize, after reporting on her accident.)  I look at her and listen to her talk and wonder… where did my baby go?  In her place is emerging a little girl who is delightful and opinionated and bubbling over with activity.  Her transformation – literally before my eyes – reminds me how fleeting life is, how quickly we are all changing, how soon this breathless stage in my life will be over.  So I try to grasp it, turn it over in my hands, look at it, savor it, memorize it, and while I’ve grabbed one moment another dozen fly right past, or so it feels.

Sometimes that realization grounds me.  Sometimes it panics me.  Tonight I stand closer to the edge of panic as I watch it all.  I am filled with questions.  Am I doing it right?  Are they learning what they need to learn?  How can I add ____ for so-and-so?  What should we do about this child with that problem?  Where will I find the time to do it?  How much homework is in their backpacks that I haven’t checked since before Thanksgiving?  Do we have clean clothes to wear to school tomorrow?  What will I pack in their lunches?  All of these questions should have been answered on Saturday, but it didn’t happen because we still had company and when they drove away on Saturday night I was just too tired to go to the store or start some laundry.

Our Thanksgiving holiday was great.  The meal was delicious and the crowed (forty some of us) was enjoyable.  We had a super time with my brother-in-law and his children staying with us.  We made memories with cousins, held the sweetest four month old all we could, talked and played and built relationships.  My only regret:  no photos.  I remembered to tuck the camera in my bag every time we went somewhere or set it out on the counter, but not once did I have the presence of mind to pick it up and take the picture!  I get swept away in the activity of it all and when I come back up for air it is over and I can’t bring it back.

So the house is a mess and the laundry isn’t done.   We’re jumping back into everyday life a little richer in memories but certainly poorer in rest.  We have another birthday coming this week and work to do in preparation.  I’m still fighting a cold and hoping to beat it soon.   I have long lists of things to do and really hope to make things work out.  And somehow, while it’s all spinning so fast, I need to carve out of every day a bit of time to focus on what really matters, to find joy in the crazy and calm in the storm.  And sleep.  I’m in search of sleep, and quickly.  🙂

Wish me luck!
Jennifer

 

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