This has been our family this Christmas…off kilter…. crazy. Heck, this is our family every day. Up, down and all around. I’m happy to say, we’re not normal. Who is? We live off-kilter.
politely asking the children to take a few more pics , err, bribing them with my usual Smarties in my pocket between shots (don’t leave home with out ’em when taking family photos!), we got another wonderful photo shoot at such a very special time in our family’s life. Special thanks to our photographer, Merideth Bennett. We’ll be posting a few updated photos in our BIG FAMILY life blog tab a.s.a.p. for you to check out. Have patience, though… we kinda have a lot going on at the moment. 😉
But seriously, let’s talk Christmas prep, People. I absolutely love, love, love all things holiday. I mean ANY holiday. I get really into it. I was the kid that drooled over the homes with yards covered with mechanical sleighs and reindeer on their rooftops, dripping with lights that sung songs, Santas that danced, and practically shot fireworks from their chimneys as far as my imagination was concerned. “Tacky” wasn’t in my vocabulary. I had set my mind that I was going to be “that lady”. So, I then married, “Clark Griswold”. We’ve toned down from the original crayon sketched plans I had made, but we have many phases of lights that we intend to add on to each year. Let’s just say, as ol’ “Clark” puts it…. “It ain’t Christmas until the inflatable Jesus/Nativity scene is up in the front yard!” Absolutely real. We both have a problem…
As most parents know, taking family pics, getting cards out, and the buying/hiding/finding where you hid the presents/wrapping/rehiding/unhiding again/refinding/and putting all paraphernalia back under the tree…finally… should truly be an Olympic event! I mean, really. Can I get an “Amen”? Did I mention that I have stairs? This year, I ain’t exactly what I used to be. Just one run up the stairs, and I’m panting. Frustrating.
The truth is. I’m often reminded that, there’s all of this rigmarole about the present; yet, truly, I am supposed to not only be keeping myself focused on “the reason for the season”, but keeping my kids focused, too? Oy vey! All I could think this Advent season was, “Baby, Jesus, I’m so very, very glad it’s your birthday, because, Boy, do I need you right now. More than ever! I’m not being sarcastic. I mean that with every bit of my being. But I’m spent and I’m not sure how I’m gonna pull this one through this year. All I wanna do is wave a magic wand, have presents under the tree, collapse on the couch, watch some Christmas movies, and sing “Silent Night” over and over again for our family night prayers until all fall asleep. Then, I’ll sip wine by the fire, if I’m not already asleep myself. Because, well…
Seriously. This Advent, I started off strong. I had finished my big 6 rounds of chemo and everyone saw me ring the ol’ bell at Mary Bird Perkins center. However, I wasn’t as excited as everyone else was. I didn’t really want to ring that bell. I’m not “done with chemo”. I still return every 3 weeks through the summer for Herceptin, which is one of my “chemo meds” (a targeted chemotherapy particular to my diagnosis). I will also have my Mastectomy and Reconstruction on January 6th which I’m starting to get a little nervous about. Excited, but with all the preop tests and paperwork, I can’t help but get worked up a bit about this new unknown phase of my journey.
So… as my house fills up with “TMK” (Too Many Kids), as Jim Gaffigan references it in his own “Dad is Fat” book (linked below on Amazon) or “Mr.Universe” stand up routine (found on Netflix (highly recommend!!!) referring to his own family (No worries or offenses, He is proudly, and hilariously owns his T.M.K., 5 kiddos of his own.)…. My house is now reminding me that the walls are closing in, and my Christmas hopes and idealisms just might not happen! Eeghad!!
Why? Because, one, I ain’t perfect. That’s the first reality we all have to face. I swallow that pill first before any of my other meds each morning, and have been… way before my diagnosis. Those pills are called: “SPAZ” and “Lower the Bar You, Nincompoop, ‘Cuz You Don’t Have You To Do It All & You Ain’t No Martha Stewart or Need to Be A Super Freak- Wonder Mama”. Yes, those are the names of my over the counter, self prescribed meds that I’ve been taking for a very looong time. (Yes, the second one is a little lengthy in title, so the generic form is “Buna”. I can meet you in a back alley somewhere and give it to you in a handy paper bag if you like. It looks a lot like a bottle of wine!) Let me know if you need me to send you a script. 🙂 This particular diagnosis of spastic nature, is both genetic and self-inflicted. Sorry, to my hubbie and kiddos. It is what it is. And, warning, it does rub off. Cheers!
**Perfect example as follows: Me and kiddos doing “The Grinch” impressions, which we tried to keep up throughout entire movie. Don’t recommend it. Holy face cramps, Batman!**
Back to my “Whoa is me pity party”… 😉
…. (sniff sniff) to add to that, I also went in on December 23rd for that described “easy” Herceptin chemo treatment … that hit me like a ton of bricks! I was in good company with my 2 eldest, Sidekick, Sunshine, and my Dad! All first timers in the Infusion Suite, which helped keep my spirits up when heading back there after ringing the bell when everyone else thinks, “You’re done! Congratulations!” When I know I’m not. Kind of a bummer. Very hard to explain. It left me feeling pretty emotional and very, very nauseous. I handled all of my other rounds like a champ, even though my side effects were ridiculous, I knew what to do, but this one, although so much smaller, just defeated my spirits and blind sided me. I wasn’t ready to feel so sick. My days just before Christmas were feeling a bit more like this guy’s…
(Don’t watch if squeamish or if you’re mature at all. I’m a dork and am often not. Do, though, if you love Will Farrell! I’m capable of posting classier humor, but not today. My apologies. Haha!)
Yup, I had every intention of cruisin’ out of there feelin’ tired, but good. Nope. I was surely caught off-guard. I lost sight of my “no worries attitude”… again. The calls about my surgeries came in the same day, while getting the infusions to go get more tests, mammograms, labs, chest x-rays, PT Scans, echocardiograms, ultrasounds, blah blah blah…, all while I just wanted to go have fun throughout the break with my family. Instead, I wanted to curl up in a ball with a bucket next to me, yet I still hadn’t finished wrapping my last presents. Poopy. Poopy. Poopy.
It hit my body for a good 2 days. I cried and sat in a warm Epsom salt tub while my mama took over the house with my 5 kids all home for the Christmas break, and I cried some more. I couldn’t stop. I was an emotional roller coaster and was running off the tracks! I was either off the tracks or just got stuck on the perpetual loopty-loop and kept dragging my husband and mom right with me. I tried to spare my kids, but I’m pretty sure my care takers got the brunt of it. I was mortified and borderline depressed. This is NOT how Christmas was supposed to be. This was NOT the plan. This is NOT how I intend to spend my “break” between my “big chemo rounds” and my surgery that’s just around the corner. Dang it! Something has GOT to stop. Where’s my faith? Where’s my hope? Where’s my Bob Marley songs that the Big Guy upstairs sings to me in my prayers? … Then it hit me again. I just got scared and plugged my ears at some point. Crapola! I did it again. I was doing all the fighting and worrying and “taking over”, and forgot who was in charge here, really, and who was the spaz (allow me to tip my hat and take a bow).
Then I grabbed my phone, went to my blog’s prayer wall and looked over your intentions, and refocused all the crapola I was feeling and offered it right back to where it needed to go. Thank you for your intentions, I needed them at that moment. Then, I read my daily advent prayers and kicked myself in the butt. Christ was coming for me and for all of you who were asking for prayers. Every little thing was gonna be alright … because He was coming. Jesus was going to be born! That’s what Christmas was all about. The reason for the season. Not my to do list. Not the fun activities I’ve been planning, not the gift wrapping, not the parties, not the outfits, not any of that… the Christ child. I got dressed, and went downstairs to look around at my many blessings. Not just my T.M.K., but my T.M.B. (Too Many Blessings), too many too count! I’m surrounded! I looked at our collection of nativities: some passed on from generations, some as gifts from friends and families, and some homemade by little hands (pics below)… and the warmth of His holy spirit, of the Christ child started breathing in me. Like a warm glow.
Then we prayed our Jesse tree prayers, as a family, putting each ornament on our homemade felt tree, made years ago when I had a few extra moments on my hand (Ha! What’s that like?). I felt so blessed to hear my children talking about their love and understanding of their faith and excitement of Jesus coming. They really “get it.”
….BUT THEN THERE WAS CHRISTMAS MORN …
After many human alarm clocks starting at 3 am, and every hour after that, until we finally gave in at 6:30a.m., we all opened our stockings on Mommy and Daddy’s bed (as is tradition) before heading down the stairs to Aaron Neville or Nat King Cole Christmas music playing, Daddy standing at the bottom of the stairs with the video camera rolling and kids ready to run down and rip open presents. But not this year. Nope. This year, they asked if they could spend the first hour each giving their own gifts, one by one, to open that they had either made or spent their own money on at the consignment store for their siblings. My mom had taken them, and they wrapped them on their own. Not what we expected, but It was the cutest, sweetest thing ever!
It gets better.
They appreciated every gift. They took their time, and they paused before their final gift that they each saw, the same size, in the same wrapping paper, under the tree (about the size of a book, they assumed) to go eat our traditional breakfast of powdered donut snowmen and egg muffins while singing Happy b-day to Jesus. Then, it was time.
They casually approached the tree to open their last gift, one by one picking up their last small gift. Sidekick, the first to begin unwrapping her gift marked “From Santa”. Instant screams, shrieks, and tears… no exaggeration… the girl shook with tears of joy! Why? She unwrapped her first ever big “electronic”. Each of our kids then tore open their gifts to see that they’d each gotten Kindles!!! Santa must have spoken to a team of very generous elves to get those under our tree this year, for our kids know that that’s not something we could have ever done before, nor should it be something we could do this year of all the years. They all screamed and cried, literally. I cried watching, and I normally don’t cry tears of joy… I’m a happy laugher, not a happy crier… but this was just overwhelming.
To quote Sidekick: “I guess, Mommy, Santa knew that all those other years that other kids had Kindles and iPads and stuff and we didn’t but would have wanted them, maybe our hearts weren’t in the right place. But this year, we just want to be together. We just want each other and are happy for anything really, and I guess Santa was just waiting for that or something? I guess Christmas really is about being together and about Jesus, because once you get that, St. Nick blessed us for it. God is good! (all her sibs responded “All the Time“) All the Time? (They continued… “God is good!”)
No lie, that’s what she said. I could never have said it better myself. She and all of my kids, for that matter, in every way that they shared and received their presents for and from one another and from Santa, were instruments of the Holy Spirit teaching me this Christmas. Their gratefulness was beyond measure, their patience was beautiful, and their love that morning for one another was so Christ-like. Granted, they are very human, and we are a hot mess on a regular basis. As I said before, we’re up, down, and all around. But this Christmas, we were given a special gift and insight into something that we all really needed, even just for one moment, for one morning. It felt like a glimpse of Heaven to me and something to live for. I needed it. My kids taught ME this time.
And these are the morals of my personal Christmas story:
Every little thing IS gonna be alright… especially when the littlest gift of this season is a baby, Jesus, who’s come to give us life everlasting!!! I’d say that’s ALRIGHT!!!
MERRY CHRISTMAS, Y’ALL!!!
Thank you for absolutely everything that every last one of you has done to pray for us and support us in every way , shape, and form. Nothing has gone unnoticed. Thank you from the top of my bald head to the bottom of my toes. My family thanks you, my extended family thanks you, and I know that my doctors and nurses thank you. You have been “our village” this year and we definitely have learned that it takes a village to make it all work. We pray you remain with us in the new year. Have a blessed New Year and…
“God bless us, Everyone!”-Tiny Tim
(Yes, that is a Gingerbread “Oh, Snap!” Christmas Sweater that I’m wearing)