Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

Each December, I get so excited when my daily trip to the mailbox produces a Christmas card or two. Even better, I love when the sender includes a letter along with the card; the type of letter that recaps their year and regales the reader with a progress report on each child. As much as I love reading how our beloved family, friends and church members are doing, I’ve yet to write a letter of our own. Growing up, I fondly remember walking into the living room on a Saturday morning, year after year, and seeing my mother all cuddled up on the couch, handwriting letters inside every Christmas card. As much as I’d like to, I cannot offer you a handwritten letter. But, I’ll take a whirl at my first “Smith Year in Review” typed Christmas letter:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I beg to differ. On our Christmas card, is my one Christmas wish: a family portrait in which everyone is sitting still and smiling for the camera. Still and smiling. Those two words together are very foreign in our household these days. Our portrait attempt in 2009 was nothing short of a disaster. But, persevere we did and viola, my wish came true. If this picture could truly speak, it would tell you that Eli ran off the set after every 2 snaps of the camera, Micah’s hairbow was pulled out no less than 20 times, which was about the same amount of times that I had to pull her dress down to cover up her “muscular” thighs, Jason’s tie was forgotten amidst the “hurry up and rush out the door while everyone is still tucked in and wrinkle-free” frenzied moment, my tights were getting a new snag every 15 seconds from the Velcro on Micah’s shoes, Jacob couldn’t quit veering off to the left or the countless times our ever-so-patient photographer, who fortunately happens to be a good friend, squeezed a rubber chicken in attempt to get everyone to smile for the camera. So, please do not be misled by the happy, smiling, it-looks-like-we-have-it-all-together family on the Christmas card. Happy? Yes. Smiling? Most of the time. Have it all together? Rarely. If you want to see a true reflection of our life this year, the snapshots would spawn an entire album. Life these days is full…very full!

The long forgotten terms that I learned while taking Music Appreciation in college are fresh on my mind once again as I try to describe our life today. The tempo, or speed, of our life at Christmas 2008 would best be described as andante, or at a walking pace. We had just welcomed our much anticipated second child, Eli. Pulling the crib out of the attic after 6 long years and remembering how to piece it together was a thrill. Jason was at home almost every week, coaching Jacob in one sport after another. Jacob had just started kindergarten, which allowed me to stay home and lavish undivided attention on my baby boy all day. Adjusting to a family of 4 after being a family of 3 for so long was a fairly easy transition. Life was good and steady; a walking pace.

Fast forward to this Christmas 2010 and the tempo of our life would best be described as vivace, or lively and fast. We saw more doctor’s offices in the first 5 months of this year than we did in the past 5 years combined. Someone was sick practically every single day well into spring. January found us pushing the crib out of one nursery and into another. And, the past 5 months has seen Jason on the road Monday-Friday more weeks than we wish to count. Being a single mom to 3 is hard. Being a daddy on the road away from his 3 children is harder.

From the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning, we are on the go. I know that most of you are as well, but unlike you, our feet sometimes carry us no further than 50 ft in any given direction the entire day and they somehow still manage to never get a minute to rest. Three meals alone can take a total of 3 hours. Diaper changes and baths another 2 hours. Cleaning the kitchen and laundry is done so often throughout the day and night that I couldn’t even guess a time. You get the picture. We are not out changing the world, but rather shaping little lives that may one day change the world.

This year started off with a bang. Right around the 18 month mark, I think Eli woke up one day and decided to leapfrog past months 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and take a straight nose-dive into the testy, trial-filled terrible 2s. We didn’t know what provoked it so suddenly…was it the baby taking his place? the middle child thing? a boy thing? I remember holding him in time-out while he screamed and saying to him over and over, “Eli, you’re in time-out,” just to get him familiar with the term. Oh, how I wanted to give up! I thought, “What’s the use? This is going nowhere!” Then, I read somewhere that consistency bears fruit. I allowed that to resonant in my mind and pray this child (and his mother) through this time. Slowly but surely, we have made much progress. Six months ago, we never could have left a book with paper pages in his room without it being torn to shreds. Now, he ADORES his books and I frequently watch him on the monitor flipping through the pages. He has also been known to put himself in time-out a time or two. Talk about progress! I like to say that we’re still working out the kinks but we rejoice in how far he’s come. We have discovered that we cannot give this child too much individual attention. He thrives on it and lives for it. He is smitten with his “baby girl” and I dare anyone to try to hurt her because you WILL go through him first. He is the most charismatic 2 year old you’ll ever meet and funny to his core. He is obsessed with everything…from choo choo trains and spooky cats and ghosts (thanks to Halloween) to Jesus and Christmas lights. He loves big and he loves life.

Jacob has turned into our little bookworm. He started the year reading about 60 wpm and is finishing it reading 132 wpm. School comes very easy for him; working slowly on his assignments does not. I have drilled into this child the need to double check his work and use his eraser but, alas, he is on a determined mission to get done as fast as possible. He stays active in soccer, basketball, church and Boy Scouts and is so helpful and loving with the little ones. Jason and I can’t help but smile when we catch him singing along with them to their preschool songs. To be such an independent, growing boy, he still has so much innocence. We’re trying to bottle that sweet innocence up and savor it for as long as possible.

Sweet Micah is the most cuddling, lovable baby you’ll ever meet. Her world revolves around her people. She wants to watch them and be loved on by them. She is perfectly content being a spectator, plopped on your lap. She’s is no hurry to do new things and focuses instead on giving and receiving love. About every waking hour, she’ll crawl up to me, place her head against my leg and just bask in the warmth of my touch. An easy, breezy child who blows kisses to her brothers, lights up like a Christmas tree at the sight of her daddy, kicks her legs with wild excitement for her Papa and follows her momma from room to room just begging for a look, a word, an outstretched arm.

As I have had some quiet, stolen moments throughout this month to reflect on our year, I haven’t seen all the piles of laundry, all the crumbs under the kitchen table or all the times we’ve had to endure the unfortunate task of discipline. Instead, I see how God has brought us out of the survival mode that we were in at the beginning of the year with all the constant sickness, the rough transition to becoming a family of 5, the difficult and continued need to carve out individual time with each person and the highly intense days of toddlerdom. All of those things still apply today, but God has lovingly guided us throughout and taught us how to parent with grace. We stumble and fall flat on our faces more times than we succeed. But, with each rising of the sun, we are reminded that His mercies are new every day, and we try again.

We hope that this Christmas season will bring you moments that you can treasure up and ponder in your heart, just as it brought Mary as she cradled her newborn baby boy, the promised Messiah, on that very first Christmas. If I had to guess, I’d bet that her heart was going at vivace speed, but yet, she was still able to treasure up the moment, safeguarding it forever in her heart. In the busyness of the everyday demands in our life, my new Christmas wish is that we don’t lose the art of treasuring; treasuring each tiny hug, each pair of Christmas pajamas, each sleeping child and each stolen moment when my husband and I look past the chaos and catch one another’s eye and, in a silent moment between the two of us, say that we wouldn’t want it any other way. Our 10 year anniversary will be in 2 days. We’ve talked for years how we wanted to be in Hawaii on this big day. Instead, we’re trading it for 123 Main St (real address omitted for security purposes), a place where a swirl of activity demands our every minute. We’ll have time for Hawaii later. This time with a 1, 2 and 7 year old, we won’t. Therefore, we will treasure it up. We pray you’ll do the same.

Merry Christmas to All!

The Smith’s

The back of our Christmas card: