Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oh Holy Night

My Christmas visit at my brother's house continues and they have provided me with so much blog material that I think I will have to go through the events of Christmas Eve and Christmas day in several posts. I'll start with our experience getting to church service on Chirstmas Eve.

In most families, going to church on Christmas Eve is a given. The time may be up for debate if there are multiple services at the church, but going is never in question. In our family...let's just say there was a lot of discussion about going or not; even questioning friends to find out if they are going so we could base our level of guilt on how many of our peers would also be absent from the service. (For the sake of my relationship with my SIL, I should say that several of her friends were at the movies and McDonald's rather than church.) I didn't want to create any stress in the household by insisting we go...but I really didn't feel right about missing out on know, because JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. So about 20 minutes before we would absolutely have to leave in order to get to church on time, three of us decided to go. The rest of the group could fend for themselves on judgment day. Matt got a free pass because he was sick but the rest of the group is going to have some explaining to do.

The church service was in the next town over and we made the mistake of letting mom drive. Even though the roads weren't icy and it wasn't snowing hard, she drove tentatively and kept questioning us about road conditions. Needless to say, we were 3 minutes late to church. And that 3 minutes made all the difference....

When we walked in to the church building we could hear the congregation singing so we thought we were home free to sneak in. For some reason, though, they don't stand when they sing at this church. (can I just pause here and say WHO DOES THAT?! I have been Methodist my whole life and this is the first time I have ever seen a church where they don't stand when they sing. Someone should tell them that you sound a lot better when you stand. And trust me, this group needed all the help they could get. Just sayin...) (if you are reading this and you were one of the people at church that night, I am not talking about YOU here. I am talking about the "others" that were singing. Not you.)

It was at this point that my sister in law told us that we were not going in. My mom and I looked at her like she was crazy because we had just driven 20 minutes in the snow to get there and we were definitely going in for the service. But she insisted. It was easy for us to just walk in 3 minutes late because no one knew us. She knew everyone so she wasn't having any part of that. So we compromised and sat in this back room that was 1. not lit 2. not heated 3. didn't have chairs and 4. had a frosted window that allowed us to only see shadows of people inside the church, not actual faces. On the plus side, it had an intercom so we could hear the service perfectly fine.

We followed along with the readings, recited the Lord's Prayer and sang the verses of the songs we knew (without hymnals, of course). According to the Christmas program, we had "Special Music" next. Apparently the two people that were supposed to sing the music walked up to the front of the church--we could tell because we saw the shadowy figures move from the pews to the stage. Then they turned on a.....boom their backup music. Except that the system they used had the background mic turned up way too high so we couldn't hear the singers at all. Not even a little bit. I figured we just couldn't hear because we were in the back room that is not meant for viewing the service.

Since we couldn't hear anyway, I just started jotting down some notes to help jog my memory about the night for when I finally got a chance to write about it. This made my mother and SIL very nervous. There were attempts to steal the pen from me. My mom kept whisper yelling at me to stop writing. My SIL kept threatening to not talk to me again if I shared everything that was going on. I ignored both of them and muttered something about freedom of speech. Besides, taking notes was pretty unnecessary because there was no way I was forgetting about this ridiculousness. (for the record, my notes were stolen and thrown away after church)

After the special music someone from the congregation went to the pulpit to read a passage from the Bible related to the Christmas story. Before he began to read he asked everyone to stand. I thought oh sure, NOW you stand. We were 30 minutes into the service at that point. So we stood. In the dark (and cold) back room. All by ourselves. I could just see Jesus looking down on us and shaking his head.

The next "Special Music" was presented by a girl that my SIL knows so she was excited to hear her sing. We moved up closer to the frosted window to make an attempt to see the girl while she sang. As the background music started again it was clear that we weren't going to be able to hear a thing. It was odd, too, because the church was very small and there was maybe 20 feet between where we were standing and where the girl singing was positioned. I thought for sure we would be able to hear better if we were in the chapel so I snuck around to a side door and opened it slightly to stick my head in. No luck. The music was also loud inside the church. No one could actually hear her, which was too bad because apparently the girl that was singing is really great. Listening to the background music alone wasn't very inspiring. Or Christmasy, for that matter. It was just sort of awkward because here you have a whole church of people staring at a girl who was putting her heart and soul into a song and no one could hear a thing. But we did see the earnest on her face and her hand movements were lovely. Guess that counts for something.

As soon as that song was over my SIL was ready to leave. In fact, she started walking out. I objected saying that we still had a reading and Silent Night to go before it was over. And it was only 6:40 so it wasn't like the service was taking forever. But she kept going saying something about "sometimes just making an effort is all that matters!" And then she said that we could do the reading and sing Silent Night in the car while we drove home. Somehow I didn't think that was the point of going to the service. But that's exactly what we did. As she was pulling out of our parking spot to head home, she grabbed her program and read the "leader" part of the reading. Mom and I responded with the "congregation" part as we recited the words printed in the bulletin.

In the car while we were driving home.

Like it was perfectly normal.

When the reading was over we all simultaneously broke into Silent Night. There wasn't a pause or any hesitation. No one looked at anyone else to confirm that we were actually going to sing--the reading was over and then we all just started to sing. I was thinking it was the weirdest thing I had ever been a part of.

We couldn't remember all the words to the second verse so mom grabbed her phone and googled it. While she was doing that Tina turned on the radio and the station happened to be playing Silent Night at that exact moment. My SIL called it a "Christmas Miracle" and said that it justified the whole evening at church. She said it was God's way of telling us that we were ok.

Somehow I think our souls might have been better off if we had gone to the movies or McDonald's.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A List

It's the end of the year and the media seems to be full of lists so I am jumping on the "laziest way to write" bandwagon. Why should I try being any better than CNN? Who do I think I am, anyway? This is for the best.

  • Jack got his stitches out on Thursday. According to Matt, he didn't even flinch when they tugged on them to get them out. Tough guy. I wouldn't know because I wasn't there. No way. That is definitely a "dad" kind of task.
  • My friend Blake finally showed his face after being away at Grad School for the last 4 months. Don't feel bad for him. It wasn't like he was so totally engrossed in his studies that he just couldn't make the hour and a half drive to Austin. He went to almost every A&M football game, including the away games. He also went to Disney World. DISNEY WORLD. In case you didn't know, Florida isn't an hour and a half away from Austin. Yet he seemed to be able to make it to Orlando and not to Austin. In FOUR months. He clearly missed us dearly. We gave him a hard time about it when we went out for happy hour. It was great fun and I felt like we picked up right where we left off.
  • Blake totally made up for being MIA by letting us park our car at his parent's house so we wouldn't have to pay for airport parking. Not only did that save us a wad of cash, but it also allowed us to be dropped off at the door rather than having to drag 2 kids, 2 strollers, 3 suitcases and 2 carry on bags through the parking lot and on a shuttle to the airport. Just getting the kids from the curb to the check-in desk caused us to sweat profusely, so we are grateful for the lift from Blake.
  • And by "us" I mean me and my mom. Matt is still at home so don't try and rob my house because you think we aren't home. I'm smart enough to know not to blog about not being home while I am actually gone and just leave my tiny house with nothing valuable inside open to crooks and robbers. I care too much about our laminate floors and stained counter tops to do that. Besides, one look at my master shower and you would mistake our house for a frat house and leave immediately for fear that someone might slip something into your drink.
  • By the way, the whole reason we were even at the airport is because we are in Illinois visiting my brother's family. Maybe you recall me talking about them before. This is Jack's first visit up north and his first time seeing snow. It was snowing when we got off the airplane and he loved sticking his tongue out to catch snowflakes. He ran around in the snow as if it wasn't slippery at all and caused me a minor heart attack because I think we can all agree that he is accident prone (see: just about every post dedicated to Jack).
  • Christmas at my brother's house can only be described as overwhelming. In fact, I think if an alien who had never experienced Christmas before were to be sent to this house to get an understanding of what the holiday was like, the report back to the mother ship would probably just be a picture of him curled up in the fetal position. First of all, there are a lot of kids here. Between my brother's four, my two, and all the kids in town that are friends with my nieces, this house is never quiet. Not at midnight, not at 6am. NOT. EVER. Secondly, because of the large number of people, there are a large number of presents under the tree. Almost an entire room full of presents. It is an embarrassment of riches. Each kid has 3 sets of grandparents, a great grandmother, God parents, best friends, cousins, gifts from friends, neighbors and so on. Even Annabelle's gymnastics teacher gave her a gift tonight. It is crazy.
  • But even crazier is what happens on Christmas Eve after church when they open presents. It is hard to describe the scene at this house when 4-6 kids start to rip through the wrapping paper to check out their gifts. You can't expect little ones to sit patiently while each person opens one gift at a time. I mean, you definitely won't find a bunch of people calmly sitting around in Christmas sweaters sipping hot cocoa while they go around in a circle opening a gift and showing the group while everyone ooohs and ahhs. Not in a million years. Instead, it is a total free-for-all. You are lucky if they stop to look at who the gift is to before they rip through the paper. And you better not dare give a gift card at a time like this or it will get thrown away for sure. It doesn't stand a chance. By the time it is all over, the room is filled halfway to the ceiling with used wrapping paper and at least one kid is buried somewhere in the pile. Generally everyone survives, but it is touch-and-go for a while. I will make it a point to keep an eye on little Jack so he doesn't get trampled or lost in the chaos. It is the funnest thing you have ever experienced but if you are one of those people that likes things to be orderly (ahem, dad), you might need to take a Xanax.
  • I will be sure to document with pictures because I know there are some of you out there that don't believe me. Some people are thinking that I am taking some creative license in this story. Those people would be wrong, but you don't have to take my word for it. I'll have evidence when I return home from our visit.
  • In other news, I continued a family tradition by going to the 2 little girls' classes today at school to read some Christmas stories. I did this with the older 2 when they were in pre-school and grade school so I was excited to have the chance to read in the younger ones classes. There had to be some good reason why the school district would make these kids come to school during the week of Christmas. RIDICULOUS.
  • Anyway, things were great in Annabelle's class. All the pre-schoolers loved good ole' Aunt Amy. They couldn't get enough of me. Savannah's class was a little more reserved. No one tried to kiss me or anything. I guess first graders are much more suave than pre-schoolers. I thought everything had gone well with the first graders, too. After school when I asked Savannah if she liked my visit, she said yes and that the only weird thing was when a girl next to her wondered out loud if I was fat or not. I responded that she should have seen me 4 months ago; there wouldn't have been a question. The girl is 6 so I really shouldn't be bothered by this but I can't seem to shake the feeling that all I want to do tomorrow is go back up to school and sit on that kid. Jerk.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baby's First Stitches

But this isn't a post about that.

Instead, this is a post about what a jerk I am.

On Saturday night, Matt, Josh and I were just getting in the car to go to my favorite Christmas party of the year when my aunt and mom started yelling out to me to come back in the house because Jack was hurt. Mom had managed to carry him to the front door by the time I got there and all I could see was blood all over his face. I had no idea where it was coming from. His mouth was covered in blood, his cheeks, his chin and nose. It wasn't until mom moved her hand that I saw the gash in his forehead and blood started pouring out. As I grabbed Jack from her, I pushed her out of my way and said, "why does this always happen at your house?"

I regretted it instantly. It just...came my panic over his injury. I saw a flashback to the time I was called over to their house after Avery fell in her walker and had blood coming out of her head. I had a sick feeling in my stomach and his screaming was making my heart hurt. My brain ceased to operate correctly and failed to prevent me from saying a really insensitive thing to the woman who loves my babies as much as I do.

At that point it was hard to tell what I felt worse about: Jack's injury or my mom's.

As Matt and I drove to Urgent Care with Jack whimpering in the back seat, I talked to him about how awful I was for saying that. He kept telling me that this was a freak accident and could have happened anywhere. He reminded me that Jack is a boy and this won't be our last trip to Urgent Care. He talked about how scars add character (and he may have said something along the lines of, "chicks dig scars" but I tried to block that out of my head). All that is to say that he didn't make me feel better about my comment to my mom.

But how could he make me feel better? There was no defense to what I said. When the going got tough, I turned into a huge jerk.

I apologized to her profusely. She clearly loves my children and takes great care of them when we aren't around. This was a freak accident. Jack had tripped over a pillow from the couch that fell on the floor and ended up hitting his head on the corner of the end table in the living room. What are the chances that he would hit in that exact spot? Of course there wasn't anything that she could have done to stop it as it was happening. We had only been out of the house for 60 seconds so it wasn't like she was letting him run around and party while she napped in her room. I know all of this. I knew it then, too. I just don't know what got into me to say such a stupid thing.

Jack is feeling fine now and will get his stitches out on Thursday. The other good news is that my mom understood that I was out of my mind when I said that to her. She was big enough to tell me not to sweat it. She even kept the kids for us again while we went out with the people from my office for our Christmas party tonight.

They just don't make them any better than my mom.

(edited to add: I won't mention that Avery accidentally shut Jack's fingers in the car door while we were at the Christmas party tonight. I mean, how much abuse can the woman take?) *wink*

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Avery's First Haircut

Sure, she might be close to 3 and a half, but she hasn't been fond of the idea of a haircut so we just haven't ever tried. But lately her hair was starting to get stringy so I started talking up the idea with her. I may have actually said that princesses get their hair cut. *cough*

(Just uttering that sentence made me question my own ethics. I mean, how far am I willing to go to manipulate my child into doing something I want her to do? A Princess reference? Really? It's like I don't even know myself anymore).

The problem with getting her hair cut was that I told her the story of "Frizzy Lizzy" to get her to let me brush her hair. My friend Lauren told me about this tactic after it worked with her daughter. So every night before bed I would tell Avery all about "Frizzy Lizzy" and how she would never let her mom brush or blow dry her hair. Finally, Lizzy's hair got so ratty that she had to have it all cut off and she looked like a BOY! (when you say "boy" by the way, you have to really emphasize the word. You know, like BOY is the worst thing you could ever be).

It solved my daily hair brushing issue but it created a phobia of hair cuts. She was so afraid that she would end up looking like a boy that she wouldn't go anywhere near a pair of shears.

So, I started talking to her about what it is like to get a hair cut. Then I took her with me when I got my hair cut so she could see what it was like at the salon. Then there was the whole princess reference...and she finally agreed to allow us to get her hair trimmed.

And this is where I bring up the second reason why it has taken so long to get her hair cut:

I didn't want to do it.

She has these curls that I am totally in love with. They are little ringlets that make it look like we curled her hair but didn't brush the curls out. And I was afraid that cutting her hair would get rid of the curls. I held out as long as I could but I started to realize that we had to blow dry her hair a lot more lately because it was getting stringy when we just let it dry. That meant that you couldn't really see her curls anyway.

So off to the salon we went...

The BEFORE picture. Just in case cutting her hair turned out to be the worst decision ever and her hair is ruined for life. It can happen. It happened to me in 3rd grade when my mom got my hair permed and cut like an old lady. TRUE STORY. I was never the same after that.
A shot of the back. It had been straightened that morning so I didn't even get one last shot of her curls.
Here she is at the salon with my hair stylist, Vilma. We knew better than to take her to a kid's place. Too much noise and distraction for our little scaredy cat.
She did a great job sitting still.
She even managed a smile every once in a while.
And the curls still seemed to be there, even as she was cutting.
Oh, and also, I asked her to only cut about 1 inch off her hair. I mean, let's not go crazy or anything.

I love this picture because you can see that she is looking at herself in the mirror.
And there you have it. She was all done and we all survived. Curls and everything.
And then later we went to a parade and she totally managed to avoid looking at the camera the entire time.

All was right with the world.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Up To My Eyes In Cake Balls, That's What

Oh, man. I am so far behind. Let's see...what have I been doing that has kept me from posting about Thanksgiving, the Turkey Trot or Avery's first haircut?

I know! I got caught cheating on my wife and she chased me down the lawn with a golf club. Now I am spending all my time trying to make things right and stay out of the media spotlight.

oh wait. That was someone else.

No! No! I was busy explaining how I ended up at the White House State Dinner last week. I got some vague emails saying something about possibly attending a ceremony that had nothing to do with the dinner and those gave me the impression that I was a welcomed guest for the main event.

no, that was someone else also.

Oh, I remember! I was busy escalating troop levels in Afghanistan. You know, right before I pick up my Nobel Peace Prize next week.

nope. Still not me.

Well there had to be some reason why I didn't post for 10 days but I just can't put my finger on it right now. Regardless, I will be back this weekend with a recap of our Thanksgiving holiday and my fun night at the Pioneer Woman's book signing. For now, since it is approaching 1 am and I just finished making almost 150 cake balls for the week, I'm just going to hit the sack.