Friday, December 23, 2011

Gifts in Small Packages

My whole life, I was told that toddlers were/are difficult.  I've heard stories about the "terrible twos" as long as I've lived.

To be honest, I knew this was true.  I was twelve years old when my sister was two years old.  She got into unimaginable little dilemmas quite often.  Most of these dilemmas involved the destruction of something beloved. 

When Amelia was a baby, she was cute and cuddly.  Part of me dreaded her growing up, because I knew (and because I had been told) that toddlers are/were difficult.  I didn't want her to become a smelly, messy, crazy toddler.  I wanted  her to stay little, compact - sweet.

Today, my toddler girl is wide open.  She's into everything.  She's crazy, she's hyperactive, and she's gloriously messy.  Nothing is safe from her reach.  And yet, despite the whirlwind that is toddler hood, I feel like some people (including myself at times) often miss the point.

Because despite all I was told, I wasn't told was how a toddler loves.  Amelia has a heart as big as the sun breaking open on a winter morning sky.  She loves unconditionally.  There are few things more extraordinary than her constant kisses, her sweet little "I luh loos" and her hugs filled with "mmm-MMM!"   Yesterday, my friend Kathi told the sweetest story about her little 2 year-old telling her that she was his "BEST FRIEND!" My heart melted.  Toddlers totally get it.  They love their parents with a passion that I rarely see in...well, anyone.

Despite what I was told, I also wasn't told what a joy it is to watch a toddler experience.  Everything is wonderful and new to a toddler.  Watching Amelia this Christmas, I feel like I'm re-living Christmas again for the first time.  Everything is enchanting, fun, delightful.  I can't help but to buy her extra treats or take her on special little trips because she loves everything!  She oohs and ahhs over lights, she yells "Tanta!" when she sees the man in the big red suit, and she dances around Christmas Trees filled with presents.  A few nights ago, Kathi, Kim, and I took our crazy babies to Dahlonega to look at the lights.  It was insane and exhausting!  Yet, when we got in the car, Asher told his mama that it was "mac-ig-cal!"  All of my regrets about bringing the kids subsided.  That night, they had an experience.

There are so many little wonderful things about Amelia that no one ever told me about children before I became a mother.  I hear so often about the bad, the tough, the mundane.  I rarely hear about the precious, the "mac-ig-cal," or the memorable.  I want to change this mentality within myself - I don't want to sugarcoat my life by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to make sure I enjoy my sweet girl in every stage of her life.

Children are such a blessing from God.  This Christmas, I wish for all of my friends with "tough toddlers" the ability to sit back and take in the love our children give us - and to experience Christmas with them.

They won't be little forever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

St. Nik(ki).

St. Nick came to visit my school this year.

However, this St. Nick wears eyeliner and has a perfectly cropped and highlighted head of hair.  She's petite and gorgeous, and doesn't have a bowl full of jelly (even when it has a baby in it).

Our St. Nick at school is otherwise known as Nikki, who works in the Language Arts department in 8th grade.  Nikki is so fun-spirited and cute that it is very hard to ignore her pleas for fun and excitement.

Our dear little Nikki Claus decided she was going to spread some holiday cheer to the 8th grade wing this year, and she planned theme days and a Secret Santa gift exchange.  The gift exchange called for very small, inexpensive gifts (one dollar each day and five-dollar gift on Friday) and asked everyone who was interested to meet up to exchange names.

When I showed up for the name exchange, I was taken aback - almost every single member of my grade level was there!  They were all laughing, smiling and talking about the fun to be had in the next week.  I knew, deep down in my heart, that Nikki Claus performed a Christmas Miracle.

Each day was so much fun.  Amy, our grade level chair, decorated a cute little Christmas tree in our workroom.  I played Mission:Impossible with my gifts by hiding them in my lunchbox and I and tried to be as nonchalant as possible.  I attached little poems to my gifts (which, I'm sure, revealed my identity right away...).  My poor secret pal obtained amazing necessities like chapstick, a dollar planner, and a lint roller (yes, a lint roller -you wouldn't believe how linty it gets around EHall!).
Our very small and cute Christmas Tree!

Each day, Nikki called everyone in the workroom around the little tree and distributed presents.  We all opened them and oohed and ahhed in excitement.  Some presents were very exciting (Snickers bars do that to some people) and some left people rolling in laughter (like the sleeve of faux tattoos that Wes got from his Secret Santa).

Reindeer Day
The "theme days" were loads of fun, too.  We had Reindeer Day, Christmas Sock Day, Snuggie Day, Crazy Christmas Scarf Day (I couldn't find a crazy scarf to save my life - what's up with that!?) and "Vintage" Sweater Day.  Vintage Sweater Day was mostly sponsored by Susan, our instructional coach, loaded us up on her lovely assortment of Christmas sweaters.  The only thing that would have made these days a little better would have been a slight chill in the air.  It's difficult to wear a Snuggie/scarf/sweater when it is seventy degrees outside.  I was surprised, yet again, at how many people decided to contribute to the fun.  Nikki Claus really worked her magic.
Snuggie Day, Part II: Revenge of the Blanket with Sleeves

Vintage Sweater Day - that's Nikki Claus holding the Starbucks swag!

I'm thankful for a friend like Nikki.  Her infectious spirit helps me through the rough days and helps me make memories out of the best days.  She reminds me that sometimes 8th grade teachers are truly just 8th graders at heart.

Christmas melts even the most Grinchy hearts...teehee.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Weary World Rejoices

Earlier this year, my church discussed giving money to a program.  It offers former female prisoners rehabilitation, counseling, and stability.  I have heard about this program for months, but yesterday, I was able to view a tangible expression of what this program entailed.

The women - perhaps fifty or more - took up the first several rows of our worship center.  Before the offering, a couple of them told their stories and shared their experiences with the ministry. Their lives were compressed into brief segments of time - a mere glimmer of the addiction, abuse and depravity each faced.

The pain resonated in their words and their faces betrayed their emotions as they spoke of the life they once lived.  These women told of the hope they found through our church, through the program created - and through the life of Jesus Christ.  How He changed their lives forever.

After the clapping and the little awards given to these women, our worship leader and one of our musicians came back on stage for a haunting rendition of "Silent Night."

In my seat, I just melted into a puddle of emotion and tears.  It hit me like a ton of bricks -

This is a part of the beauty of Christmas.

The fact that God Himself stepped into flesh to offer hope and redemption.  It is a splendor I cannot describe with enough words, a love I can never fully explain.  The fact that despite our dirtiness and depravity, He loved enough to restore.

We speak of gifts, we search for gifts, we make lists of gifts.  But no gift will ever be greater than the Gift of Jesus Christ.  Nothing will ever undo like the depth of his love. 

And, though those women never mentioned Christmas, I found such comfort in their simple, easy stories - I remembered the beauty of Christmas.  This is the Christ who I serve.  This is the Jesus I love.  He loves enough to redeem, to give himself in the form of humanity - so that in this world full of darkness we could turn to face it with His light. When we fall, when we fail, when we are distressed, when we feel defeated, "He gives more grace."


"Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace, Hail the Son of Righteousness!/Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings/Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die/Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth/Hark! The herald angels sing, 'glory to the newborn King!'"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Belle in a Box

Amelia decided a few weeks ago that she is obsessed with Princesses.

This is a recent turn of events.  Before that, she was perfectly content with a truck and a slide.

We watched "Beauty and the Beast" for the first time a few weeks ago.  Parts of the movie definitely scared her, but she absolutely loved the movie.  At Target, I got her a small, plastic Belle doll (she calls her "Beh-ewl"), and she's just become enamored with all things Belle.  This is fine with me, since I find Belle to be the most intelligent and pragmatic of Disney Princesses.  To be honest, I don't know if that is saying much for Belle.  Aurora has the personality of a doorknob and  Snow White kind of creeps me out.

We watch "Beauty and the Beast" at least once a week now.  Amelia is starting to understand the concept of the television a little better. However,  Dora has corrupted her concept of the "third wall," so she doesn't really understand why Belle won't talk to her.

This was her conversation with Belle the other day:

Belle:  Little town, it's a quiet village....

Amelia: Hewo, Beh-ewl!  What doing?

Belle:  Every day, like the one befooooooooooree....

Amelia:  Beh-ewl!  Heeeeeeeeeey! (Waving hysterically at the television)

Belle:  Little town, full of little people.......

Amelia:  Beh-ewl!  I luh loo!

Belle:  Waking up to saaaaaaaay....

Amelia: (Turning to me) Mama, what Beh-ewl doing?

Me:  She's singing, Baby.  She's a little busy.

Despite the fact that Belle may be a little uncommunicative, I feel like Amelia has made a friend for life.