ghosses

I walked with Rainbow down to Daddy J’s grandma’s house. It’s mostly emptied out and is pretty messy inside. It makes me very sad to be in it.

In the last months of Great-Grandma’s life, Rainbow was very uncomfortable in it. Grandma was unwell and the atmosphere was, at best, subdued and, at worst, pretty bleak. The last few times he saw her, he was took a long time to warm up to her aged and shrunken appearance, and, a couple of times, he flat-out refused to go in. Halloween was kind of a bad scene; he wouldn’t stop crying and making for the door when I took him in to see her.

Anyway, that made me all the more surprised when he wanted to hang out in her house today. Cousin R was over from Knoxville to pick up some items, but by the time we got down there he was about ready to go. Rainbow, on the other hand, wanted to go upstairs and explore. He wanted to build with the bin of Mega Blocks that she kept behind the sofa for toddlers. He did not want to leave.

We visited outside for a while with Grandma’s neighbor, M, whom we’ve known since the big boys were babies. (Back in the day, we used to live right across the street from Great-Grandma. And before, that, we knew M because she has worked at our alma mater in town for I-don’t-know-how-long.) She had her dog with her, a black Pomeranian named Charlie who was literally almost as wide as he was long, due to excessive fluff and fat. Rainbow was totally smitten with Charlie and buried his face in that black fluffy stuff, giggling.

I had already been feeling reflective and sad about Ward in the last couple of days. Nothing earth-shattering or new, just sad and missing him. I was thinking about how my memories of him are fading; they are moving away from me like little boats on the ocean. Sometimes it seems that all I have left is the feel of his silky blond curls around my fingers, and the amazement I felt that someone so beautiful had come from my body.

Just sad.

I remember how he loved the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. I had been afraid that it might scare him, but he loved it. Afterward, for weeks he’d ask, “Do ya member those green ghosses? They would say ooo-ooo-ooo!” and just crack himself up.

I want to not feel sad about the ghosts. The messy house, soon to be sold, the lives that seem far too short. I want to see the ghosts for what they are: just memories of people who have moved on and are right where they need to be. I want to laugh at the idea of sad or scary ghosts – oooo-ooo-ooo! – and know that the people we love are laughing with us.

***The part Ward loved best was around 6:00, when the ghosts are in the graveyard.

brief recapping sans photos

It was a much easier Christmas than it’s been in years past. Less of the Big Shopping and Decorating, more of the Chill Out-edness. Very nice.

Photos to come shortly, but (spoiler!) the kids were adorable, Daddy J was hot, and I wore a sparkly sweater for much of the time. Daddy J and I toned down the grown-up gifting by prearranged agreement, which was a relief. Rockinrolla was given a whump-whump drum pedal that he was excited about, in addition to his Middle School trip this spring. And Brad loves his new amp for his electric guitar.

Rainbow was amply gifted, without being buried under an avalanche of consumer items. More than he needed or wanted, sure, but not an obscene amount of stuff.

Christmas #1 at Grandma L’s was delightful. Daddy J’s brother and his girlfriend joined us at Grandma L’s and Grandpa R’s house. Intimate and cozy and festive.

My brother and his family came in, which was a rare treat. We’ve seen Jay a few times in the past couple of years, but I don’t think I’ve seen my little nephew M in at least two years. Rainbow loved playing with M (who’s five) as well as with the other eleventy-three cousins he has.

It’s been a playful Christmastime.

Cousin B.W. had a fabulous Christmas Eve brunch at her home. It was slightly bittersweet because Daddy J’s grandma has had the Christmas Eve soup and sandwich event for years and years, certainly as long as we’ve been married. Daddy J’s extended local family and good friends were there.

We had our own Christmas afternoon party, also a great success. Treats, hot apple cider, wine, crackling fire. Niceness.

And again, a get-together at our house on the 26th for my brother and his family with Mom’s family.

And again, last night, a gathering at my mother’s house with her husband’s kids and families.

We have missed a couple of events that I’d have liked to have made it to, but baby naptimes and work schedules don’t let us go to everything. My good friend C cooked a flaming baked Alaska for a large group on the 26th. I hate that we missed that. We’ve missed some gatherings and Yahtzee games and didn’t get to spend as much time with some people as we’d have liked. Overall, though, it’s been a golden one.

I will, in the spirit of Festivus, air two grievances:

1. I do not feel that elaborate synthesizer music has any place in church services. I would much rather hear a third grader plunk out a version of “Silent Night” on an out-of-tune piano with two sour notes for every right one than listen to a dreamy Mannheim Steamroller version and try to look festive as I sing along with it. I am probably in the minority here, but whatever. Thumbs down on synthesizer music in church. Ptooey.

2. The pets are making me insane. In the summer, they bask and hunt and frolic outside all the time, but now they just want to lounge and mooch human food. Three inside dogs (two of whom are large, one of whom isn’t fully housebroken, and one of whom smells like a rancid dumpster) and three noisy, underfoot cats who want to be inside are wayyyyy too many.

topper

So, I looked at Hobby Lobby and Lowe’s for tree toppers. Not only was their supply very limited, but those they had were very traditional. Flowy-robed angels and serene gold finials. Hardly the thing for this Gaga-esque beauty.

I bought white ostrich feathers, a couple of wiry silver tendril things, and the last branch of silver glitter balls.

Et voila:

Brad and Rockinrolla teased me a little about it, but I know they love the medusa-alien-bird head on our otherworldly tree as much as I do.

Here’s the whole effect:

LOVE the bubble tree. And at night, those LED lights beneath the bubbles in the trunk really shine.

it’s all about the shepherds

This is the time of year when I surprise myself with my emotional responses to the Christmas story.

We are not churchy people. We don’t go to church regularly, although we do have a family religious guy and a church where we feel more at home than any other, about 50 minutes away. We don’t pray before meals (well, except for big ones like Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter) but I have prayed with the big boys plenty in the aftermath of Ward’s accident. I don’t pray with them every night anymore, although I do give them a hug and tell them, “God bless you” before I leave the room. (I do it for friends who spend the night, too.) We have them read the Children’s Bible before Christmas and Easter so they know what the days are about.

I believe in prayer, but think that prayer boils down to being in sync with God’s will. Let my will and God’s will be the same. Let me accept that and trust in it. Give me the strength or awareness or humility or whatever I need in order to be this way about events and people in my life.

I am deeply spiritual. I ask for help daily, I’ve begged for peace often, and I’ve gotten it.

But, the church thing. Sigh. I don’t do well with the whole preaching thing. I don’t want an interpreter of God’s will. I’ll ask Him/Her/Us myself, thanks. And I sure don’t want anyone telling me or my kids that if we don’t do XYZ bad things will happen, because they say so, because they know God better. And I think it’s honestly kind of silly to pick apart words in the Bible to try to find out how God feels about things. I mean, just ask if you’re not sure, you know?

And… I know there might be a church I’d enjoy. Unitarian, maybe? But that would involve a good bit of driving, and I’m just not up for it on a Sunday morning.

Someday I want to have a Sunday morning gathering, where whoever wants to can show up and share what is meaningful to them, in a brief and non-preachy way. Like, we’d all just listen for a minute or so, and atheists or agnostics or whomever would be entirely welcome, because we all have things that are meaningful in our lives. And then hold hands and have a moment of silence, and then devote a good hour or two to a group charity project. I’ve dreamed of this extensively, to be honest. I’d call it Meaningful Mornings and even if it were just me doing it, I would love it.

Maybe someday, when the bun is older.

(Remind me in a year or two or three, if you like.)

I digress.

It’s the time of year when I read the Christmas story and weep. The last few years, it’s been a tidal wave of emotion when I read about the shepherds just doing their jobs and being visited by the angels. Not the nativity scene per se, but the scene of the regular guys being given the promise of great joy by the multitude of the heavenly host. Great tidings! Great tidings! It made me weepy during Bethlehem Marketplace this year, as it did last year, and it made me weep when I saw this:


Great tidings! Great tidings!

It’s the time of year when I question my take-it-or-leave-it approach to church. I want my boys to feel the touch of the Divine that I sometimes do. I want them to know that there is more out there, that there’s a reason for all this, that we’re all connected. That God is real.

I fret that the faith I have grew from all those times my parents took my brother and me to church. They never talked about God or faith, and we didn’t pray at meals, either. Honestly, I think they may have been relieved when I put my foot down as a young teenager and flat out refused to go to church any more. Like, I left the sanctuary and was there waiting for them outside after the service. Pretty much put the kibosh on the whole get-all-dressed-up-and-go-to-church-every-Sunday-morning thing.

But. But. Being witnessed to regularly by other people who believe in God is a powerful thing. Do I have my early churchy years to thank for my current faith? Or is it more of a life experience thing, or an innate thing, that brought me to where I am?

Am I doing them a disservice by not taking them to church every Sunday? Do I need to get over my distaste with certain aspects of it in favor of their happiness?

And I hear, amidst this fretting, a firm, patient voice:

What do you want?

I want them to have faith, like I do.

Then live it.

***edited to add: This has been bugging me, although I know it will probably mean nothing to anyone but myself. But this blog is as personal journal as well as a public blog, so I feel the need to clarify the internal dialogue above. After hearing the question, “What do you want?” I didn’t so much get a response (“Then live it”) as I got a quiet acknowledgement that yes, that *is* what I want, and that I should just live my life how I’m going to live it, because I’m the mama they’ve got, and it’ll all be okay. More of a compassionate awareness of my desire than any call to action, if you follow.

A subtle difference, sure, but I wanted to make that correction.

snaps

Some overdue photos from recent days gone by…

DANG, but he’s a handsome man.

Halloween, with my little firefighter.

Brad’s theatrical debut this fall. We were immeasurably proud of him. He wants to be in the spring production, too.

Brad’s fifteenth birthday cake.

Rainbow likes to throw fallen walnuts against the fence in the backyard, and Wolfric gets them as they ricochet.

A Christmas Story, anyone?

Getting ready to go in to Bethlehem Marketplace with the big boys.

Rockinrolla loves petting the camels. And, well, who doesn’t?

Brad cuddling with Scarlett. Mini dachshund’s necks are irresistible to me. All soft and wrinkly. I adore my little weenie dog.

Me, fresh from my birthday facial with my mom and about to eat her decadent, from-scratch Italian cream cake.

My birthday present from Daddy J: a sparkly Christmas house. Awesome.

Scarlett and Wolf are best friends now. They wrestle on the porch and he chews on her very gently. She cleans his teeth like one of those nibbly fish that loiter around whales.

almost Christmas day

It occurred to me that the whole “slow as Christmas” thing only works for kids. Christmas comes fast for Daddy J and me. As do the changing seasons and birthdays and all of it. Time flies. I have these weekly Fossamax pills I take that come in a 4 pack, so I have to refill my prescription monthly, which totally underscores how my months seem to last, like, six days. It was time to refill again yesterday, and I swear I just did it.

Anyway, almost Christmas!

We had Christmas part one at Grandma L’s on Sunday and it was lovely. She puts out a terrific spread of gourmet munchies for a prolonged hors d’oeuvre-y type lunch, and then a full dinner. This year she made two lasagnas (veggie and meat), salad, and homemade artisan bread, and Daddy J brought spicy mac-n-cheese. Yum.

We got there late morning hoping Rainbow would nap. No nap, but he did lounge in his bed and chatter for 45 minutes or so. He spent both Sunday night and Monday night with Grandma L and I have missed him like crazy, but I get him back here in about an hour. AND I think I got all of my Christmas shopping done yesterday. It was a huge bonus to run around various stores without the lil bun.

(Well, except for one gift item that didn’t work out once I got it home.)

(Aaaaargh.)

But I’m almost done, and the big day is almost here. The big boys are all grown-up about Santa and gifts, but I think they will like their main gifts very much. Rainbow doesn’t really understand the whole gifting experience, but I think he will enjoy the handful heaping lapful of gifts that Santa brought. Santa did try to hold it in check, seeing as he’s only 21 months old and certainly doesn’t need anything, but Santa did indulge a bit in some items that I think will delight him fully.

(Hint: Thomas the Train.)

Christmassy

I mailed out most of our Christmas cards yesterday.

It’s such a stinkin’ ordeal to address them all and get them out. Like, hours and hours of looking up addresses and writing them and sealing and stamping all the cards.

Every year I commit to typing the addresses into the computer at some vague date over the summer so I can print address labels, and every year it doesn’t happen. Every year I tell myself halfway through the process that I’m not going to deal with it again next year, and every year (well, excepting the fire and moving and fresh grief years) I do it.

All because I LOOOOOVE Christmas cards. We make ornament balls from the ones from the previous year, so we have this great record of everybody’s children growing up. Ours only go back to 2006 at this point, but the collection keeps on growing, just like everybody’s kids keep on doing.

And we got a new tree – a 7′ white bubble tree. I think it’s the coolest thing ever. Our old, enormous tree had lights that were a pain in the neck to figure out. Daddy J would work on it like the dad from A Christmas Story, grumping and grousing, and still have a band of unlit lights like a belt around the thing. So we gave it away and downsized. The bubble tree only holds maybe 50 ornaments or so, so I went through our assortment of ornaments and got all color theme-y. This year: blue, silver, and white. Love it. Extra fun right now because Rainbow is all about bubbles. Bubbles in the bathtub, bubbles blown on the back deck, bubbles in the tree.

We took the big boys to see the Messiah performed by the Nashville Symphony last night, and it was a terrific evening. Fancy dinner, and this beautiful performance. The boys liked it, too. They got a little sleepy, but just cozied down in their seats and listened to the music, so it was fine.

There was this high voiced male singer (a counter tenor, I think?) who sang the alto parts, and he was just astonishing. His voice sounded like something you’d hear in the Queen of England’s court three hundred years ago. The soprano had a gorgeous voice, too. Her voice would trill over the complicated music effortlessly. She was like a little bird opening its mouth and having this amazing sound spill out. Just perfection.

I’m close to being done with Christmas shopping. I again did a lot of magazine subscriptions, which sure are easier and I hope are appreciated. I know I love magazines. I love getting little presents in the mail all year long. I think one more trip to Walmart or Target will wrap things up. And I just picked up a case of assorted wines for gifts and entertaining. So, whew. I’m feeling pretty together at this point.

We have Christmas #1 at Grandma L’s this weekend.

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