Saturday, December 25, 2010


I promised you a picture of Flamingo Joe and his little chicks in their Christmas outfits and here they are:

They look a little pooped out because they are. I took this picture after the Christmas Eve service. These poor children are worn slap out from working themselves into a tizzy wanting Santa to come. They spent the last couple of days before Christmas helping me make cookies . . . and by "help" I mean exactly what you think I mean:

Two days before Christmas, I went into Casey's room and saw that they had made their own sleigh:

. . . complete with reindeer:

Casey also spent some time practicing his two songs we'd been working on to sing for YaYa and PopPop. Here's some of the actual performance if you're interested (vanity disclaimer - ignore the pianist, who had not yet had a shower in spite of the fact that this video was shot at 3:00 in the afternoon and also had no makeup on):

So cute. I'm not sure how Flamingo Joe could just lay back there with his eyes closed with all that cuteness going on right in front of him.

You'll recall, that both of our children received letters from Santa the week before Christmas and Santa told them that if they were not in bed and asleep he could not leave presents for them. So Casey, who had spied on Santa for three years in a row, suddenly saw the error of his ways and decided that he should at least pretend to be asleep this year when Santa came. Instead of spying on Santa this Christmas Eve, Casey decided he didn't want to risk getting busted and on December 23rd, came into our room right before bed and announced that he had a new plan for Christmas Eve. As you might imagine, this made our Christmas Eve much simpler.

So on Christmas Eve, while I was in Casey's room reading to him, we thought we heard a noise, so Casey turned out all the lights and told me to be quiet. Sure enough, pretty soon we heard reindeer hooves, jingle bells, and some disconcerting sliding and shuffling noises on the roof. Poor Santa had some trouble on our slick shingles -- we almost had to cash in that life insurance policy we carry on Santa. Mace had been asleep for an hour, so he missed all the excitement, but he decided he believed in Santa after all once he saw his brand new Spiderman bike waiting on him the next morning.

Note that it is indeed still dark outside -- I think we were up by 6:30 or so. I vaguely remember the seven Christmases back during the days before we had kids. We slept until 8:00 (Joe) or 9:00 (me), got up, had coffee and a bagel and then moseyed over to the tree by 10:00 or so to open the 2 or 3 presents under the tree. If I had know how having children would change Christmas, I would have had those pesky kids much much sooner. Christmas without kids is always a bit of a let-down, I think.

We had a great morning. By the time YaYa snapped the picture above, we had already progressed to the assembly stage of our morning, which extended well into the evening. Just kidding, it wasn't too bad this year, though I did get frustrated enough trying to get Gordon to work that I almost threw him through the wall.

Casey got a bat, glove and bucket of baseballs, so I spent some time trying not to get hit in the face while at the same time standing close enough for accurate pitches. I'm a terrible pitcher. But Mace is an excellent fetcher. YaYa is a good fetcher, too, for that matter.

I got a Kindle for Christmas, which explains why I haven't posted since Christmas Eve -- I've read about 6 books since Christmas Day. Flamingo Joe threatened to hide the Kindle a couple of days ago, but he's finding it hard to snatch it because it's usually attached to me somehow. But I'm learning to moderate my new addiction by only reading while I'm awake -- though last night I did fall asleep with my head on the Kindle and then dreamed I was still reading, so maybe I have some more work to do with my Kindle sponsor.

Oh well . . . new year, new challenges.

Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Why Jesus Came

A couple of Sundays ago at church, it was Tommy Shelton's job to prepare us for communion. We have communion every Sunday at our church -- I grew up in Southern Baptist churches where communion was once a quarter. So for the first few months at our current church, it would surprise me every Sunday when the elements were passed out and whoever was next to me would have to nudge me to take the plate. Tommy Shelton is our church's youth pastor and I really like his sermons -- they are often a little complex, but he comes back around to where he started and I always love how he gets back there. Here is a link to his Sunday sermons -- I highly recommend the sermon from Christmas last year (Bread, Goggles & Wise Men):

But on the Sunday I'm talking about, Tommy's only job was to prepare us for communion. Because we have communion every Sunday, the job of preparing the congregation for it is passed around to different people (much like the elements themselves) -- I used to laugh to myself that it must be difficult to think of new things to say about communion every week and pity the poor soul whose turn it was to get up there, but after hearing about a year's worth of insights into communion, I'm starting to have a new perspective on communion. I think that maybe the point of having communion every week is to actually incorporate the taking of the bread and wine into the routine of worship. Think about it -- effective corporate worship involves being comfortable enough in your surroundings to not think about what's going to happen next so that you can let your heart and mind find God without distraction. At churches where communion is taken once a quarter and on Christmas and Easter, communion itself is an event -- we have to make room for it in the Sunday morning line-up. It changes things up and throws the rhythm of worship off -- I've never found communion to be that meaningful in those circumstances. Now that I've been taking communion every week for a year, it's part of my weekly corporate worship and I am comfortable enough to find God there without distraction.

So on this Christmas Eve, I wanted to share Tommy's insights into Christmas and Communion with you:

It’s obvious to my family that Christmas is coming soon. I have loved the cold weather lately because for me cold=Christmas, its because of where I grew up. The first Christmas I spent here, I spent in shorts, and it just didn’t seem right. So I know that Christmas is coming but what does that bring with it? Well, we know that as followers of Christ that Christmas is about the coming of Jesus. And we know from the Gospels that Jesus did so many wonderful things and it would appear by looking at the sheer volume of things that Christ accomplished and the things that Christ taught, that Jesus came for so many reasons. And we realize that Christ came because he was the Fathers gift to us, and he came to love us and to show us how to live. He came to do miraculous things, he came to feed homeless and heal the sick and gift sight to the blind. We know all of these things, we read them in Matthew, Mark Luke, and John. We see the richness and the fullness of Christ’s life and everything that he accomplished, but why did Jesus come -- I mean why did he really come? We read in 1st Corinthians 5:21 that “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin that we might become the righteousness of God.” But what was THE purpose for Jesus’ life? The purpose of Jesus’ life was Jesus‘ death. Jesus came to die. Everything that Jesus did, he did on the way to the cross. Every sermon that he taught was on the way to the cross. Every hungry mouth he fed was on the way to the cross. Every blind and crippled man he healed was on the way to the cross. Meditate on this meal because it is symbolic for the reason why Christ came -- so his blood could be spilled and that we could be washed clean. Of course Jesus healed, he is a loving God. Of course he fed, he is a loving God. Jesus always had time for those in need. But He was always clear that the purpose of His coming was to die. He came so that his flesh could be torn and his blood would be spilled so that we could be washed clean. We spend a lot of time with our children and they get all wrapped up with the presents part of Christmas, and its almost so cliché’ to say, “lets remember Jesus is the reason for the season” but what’s the real reason? Lets go a little bit deeper than that. Jesus came to die. My children were asking me the other day what my favorite holiday was, and I said I think it’s Christmas, and Adelyn said, “mine too.” And Ella my seven year old said “But daddy, Easter is the most important holiday though, isn't it? And I said, "Yes Ella it is," but then I said "Girls, Christmas is really a celebration of Easter, Jesus had to be born for him to die." So, this meal, this simple juice, and this simple piece of bread symbolizes the life that we can have -- the righteousness that we can have. Because God made him who knew know sin to become sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

So this Christmas, may God's peace be with you because you are confident in your Savior's love for you -- because you know that your Savior died that you may have life.

Merry Christmas!

(***Special thanks to Tommy Shelton for allowing me to post his message!***)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Miracle at Dillards

I love the countdown to Christmas mainly because I like to torture my kids by bringing packages in the front door, sashaying past them with an evil I-know-something-you-don't grin, ignoring their pleas for information ("What's in there?" "Can I see?" "Is it for me?"), and carrying the package into the sewing room closet. It's odd, but Casey is one of those children that if you tell him not to go near something, he just won't go near it. You don't have to threaten him with consequences or make up an extravagant story about how all the presents will just *poof* disappear if he opens the door. I attribute this rogue strain of obedience to his naturally skittish nature -- he assumes that if I tell him not to go near something (hot stove, electricity, Christmas closet), that if he does go near it he will experience pain, or worse, in his case, failure. So he hasn't even attempted to go in the sewing room.

The only reason Mace hasn't tried to go in the sewing room is because he doesn't really know enough to try yet. When he figures it out, it will take all manner of threats and security measures, possibly tasers, to keep him out. I'll have to start hiding presents somewhere else.

Nowadays, the thing I miss most about Christmas is the element of surprise. The rules of gift-giving have changed altogether. As an adult, it's only polite to give your loved ones a short list of affordable items you might like -- to drop all the proper hints at the proper time. It saves them the frustration of figuring it out -- which I understand, since it is four days until Christmas and I still haven't bought anything for Flamingo Joe and neither has Grandma.

When Flamingo Joe and I started dating, I was so excited to have someone to buy clothes for, so I would buy him shirts and jackets and sweaters at Christmas. I found out pretty quickly that he didn't appreciate it -- he took it as an insult that I apparently thought he couldn't dress himself. He was really rather sensitive about it. He totally misinterpreted my intentions -- whether he could or could not dress himself was completely irrelevant -- I loved clothes. It gave me great pleasure and joy to buy him some. I don't find nearly as much pleasure and joy in buying him tools.

Flamingo Joe and I rarely shop together anymore, but somehow Saturday night I convinced him to go with me to the mall after supper to help me find Casey a sweater vest to wear Sunday morning to church (the kids were singing in the service). We started out at Sears and thereafter hit every single department store at the mall. I rarely shop for nice clothes for the kids -- my goal is to buy them clothes that, when they get stained with spaghetti sauce or chocolate milk within the first two minutes they are worn, don't make me cry. The ratio of time worn before stained v. cost is extremely important when selecting clothes for boys.

But there are rare occasions when I have to find something nice, and singing at church is one of them. As we made our way through store after store, the selection of nice boy clothes was limited to almost nothing. At Sears we found one sweater left in Casey's size. We hid it amongst some clothes crammed on a rack in case that was our only option and went to the next store, which I think was JCPenney's. I wish you could have seen the tables of clothes at Penney's -- it looked like a tornado had come and picked up all the clothes and dropped them again. Those poor employees were going to be there until 3 a.m. folding clothes.

Then we went on to Macy's and stopped at a couple of other smaller stores in between. Nothing. I was really surprised Macy's only had dress shirts with horrible cheap ties in sets to sell. Nothing else. And to find those, we had to lay on the floor and scoop them out from behind a rack of pants hanging against the wall where they had fallen during the shopping melee that had apparently taken place there during the day. We had been at the mall for an hour and a half and were getting discouraged. Flamingo Joe, whose bum knee was killing him, suggested we go back to Sears and buy the one sweater. I told him I thought we should hit Dillards and that he shouldn't feel like he needed to go there with me -- he was free to go back to Red Robin and nurse a beer until I got there. But he said he'd come with me and we headed to Dillards.

When we finally found the children's department at Dillards, I looked around at all the neatly hung and folded clothes that were arranged by (gasp) style and color and I heard angels singing. It was a Christmas miracle. Joe and I headed straight for the sweater vests that were hanging neatly on the wall with matching mock turtlenecks right beside them and in 30 seconds had picked out the perfect set for Casey. Then Flamingo Joe suggested we try to find something similar for Mace.

I almost passed out -- Flamingo Joe was suggesting we shop more? Gracious.

We walked across the room to the little boy department, which was arranged just as neatly. My personal belief is that when you walk into a store that sells clothes for little boys, the store should be arranged in such a way that you gasp and run to a rack saying, "Look how cute!!!!" They had the exact vest we picked out for Casey in Mace's size and the same mock turtleneck. I was having euphoric visions of my children in matching Christmas sweaters on Christmas Eve when I spotted a vest in the same colors but with a train on the front. I almost passed out -- I held it out for Joe to see and he had to keep himself from crying it was so cute (that may be a slight exaggeration).

With both the boys outfitted, we were getting ready to head for the checkout when Joe said (you're not going to believe this), "I wonder if they have that same sweater we're getting Casey in my size."

Oh my. I don't think I've been that happy in years.

It was like the very opposite of that excruciating marriage workshop we went to a couple of years ago.

So we went to the men's department and . . . sadly, no, they didn't have the exact sweater, but they did have a solid sweater vest in the same gray as the kids' vests, so we bought that for Flamingo Joe. I don't have a picture of him and the boys together yet, so you'll have to check back with me on Christmas Day.

In our post-shopping glow, we stopped at Red Robin for a Jamaican Shake (me) and a beer (FJ). As we were sitting there basking in the glory of actually finding what we were looking for and then some, I told Joe I was having trouble finding him something for Christmas and so was his mother. I told him I didn't want to just give him money to fix his tractor or whatever, I wanted to give him an actual gift. He said he didn't need anything else -- he needed to fix stuff or new stuff to work on stuff he needed to fix. For example, he said, he needs a new push mower.

A push mower?

I told him that was the same as if he bought me a vacuum/mop combo for Christmas.

He said no, it wasn't, because he would actually use the push mower.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Naughty List

We have discovered this holiday season that our three year old, Mace, is a natural skeptic. This is his first "conscious" Christmas season -- i.e., he is verbal enough to tell us exactly what his reactions are to Santa, reindeer, elves, etc.

And he thinks it's all bunk.

It's a bit of a downer during the holidays when your 7 year old is more of a believer than your 3 year old.

Two days after Thanksgiving, when Everest, our family elf, came back and appeared on top of the entertainment center, Casey was thrilled and ran to get Mace and bring him into the room. When Casey showed Mace the elf, Mace sat down on the couch and just stared at him for a good five minutes before announcing, "He not real."

Casey protested, "Yes he is!! You can talk to him and tell him what you want for Christmas and he'll go back to the North Pole every night and tell Santa whether you've been bad or good!"

Mace stuck to his guns, "No. He not real."

Yesterday, both of the children received letters from Santa himself. It was a surprise for all of us (except Flamingo Joe, if you catch my meaning). We opened up the letters right away and read the remarkable news that Santa has placed both my children on the "Good List."

As soon as I told Mace that Santa had sent him a letter, he said, "No, he not send letter." So I started reading the letter aloud to him. The entire time I'm reading the letter, he's shaking his head and mumbling something to himself.

"No," he would say, shaking his head, "(mumble mumble mumble)."

When I got to the end of the letter, I pulled out the certificate that came with the letter which declares that In Honor of Your Outstanding Behavior and for Keeping the Spirit of Christmas All Year Long, I Santa Claus, Hereby Place Mace Flamingo on the Good List for this Christmas. The Good List Certificate is signed by Rudolph (by hoofprint), Arthur Elfmeyer the Chief Elf and Santa Claus himself. I showed the certificate to Mace and told him, "See Mace, Santa put you on the Good List."

Mace shook his head again and spoke up loud enough for us to hear exactly what he was saying this time, "No. I on Naughty List."

Grandma and I started laughing, "What did you say??"

"I on the Naughty List. I not on Good List."

I asked him, "Who told you that you are on the Naughty List?"

"Miss Christine," he said. Miss Christine is one of his preschool teachers.

Mace has been having some self-control issues lately at school and at home. He is at the same age that Casey was when I took him on an almost week-long trip to Memphis with my parents and when we came back, my mother told me that she was going to buy me a book about how to raise an only child. Apparently she thought that one child was too many for me since I couldn't even teach the one I had to keep his limbs from flinging about at the least little stimulus.

How bad, though, do you have to behave for your preschool teacher to tell you that are on Santa's Naughty List?

But the bigger point here, I think, is that Mace actually has so much self-awareness that if Santa thinks he is worthy of the Good List, then Santa obviously doesn't exist.