Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 2 and Counting

We are waiting. Some folks say that they don't like to rush Christmas because they might miss out on truly enjoying Thanksgiving. But this year I'm trying an experiment in not rushing Christmas by purposefully celebrating Advent. Oh, we won't go so far as to withold decorations until Christmas Eve, especially since we won't even be around to enjoy them! But perhaps I will space things out a bit over the coming weeks. Do a little at a time, room by room, piece by piece. Maybe I will make this part of the 25-day advent calendar I'm setting up for December. And before we even begin really decorating anyway, I'm cleaning house! We're "making room" for Jesus in our lives, in a quite physical and obvious way. I hope.

Today is the second day of Advent and so far we have put up just a small Christmas tree given to us by a relative and have lit one candle on the advent wreath. (If you are not familiar with the liturgical or church calendar and why we celebrate this season of longing and anticipation, there's a good collection of explanations at Go to Bethlehem and See, our favorite advent blog.)

Yesterday, our pastor used the children's moment to light the first advent candle and handed out little toy advent wreaths to all the children, complete with plush candles stuck on with velcro. I was glad that Jacob has something to put in his room as a reminder of this season, but there's just something better about real candles! Yes, even with a one and a three year-old.

The mystery, the twinkle of the light, the darkness that slowly gets pushed back as Christmas day draws nearer...those are the things I love about this season and the gradual lighting of the wreath.

It also helps teach me patience. And apparently advent is a proper lesson in patience for the little ones as well. Yesterday afternoon we read some of the section from Isaiah from The Jesus Storybook Bible as we "lit" the first plush purple candle on Jacob and Ethan's toy advent wreath. We talked about how God had sent his prophets to anticipate the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus, and how now we are waiting to celebrate his birth, just as we wait for His second coming to earth. And I explained that now that we have lit the first candle we have to wait an entire week to light the next one.

A whole week?! That's an eternity in a child's eyes. And sure enough, not only did Jacob want to light the second candle of the Advent wreath TODAY, he also wanted to open his presents (I have some very organized relatives who sent us home from Thanksgiving complete with wrapped gifts!). So, hopefully, each week his anticipation will grow as he awaits the celebration to come. Since he has been denied yet another immediate pleasure, just imagine his joy on Christmas morning as he receives those gifts and relishes in the delight of opening them and celebrating God's greatest gift of His Son.

The following from this Advent devotional is a good reminder of why we give our children gifts at Christmas in the first place. (As are these thoughts on the generosity of the season.) But I think what struck me the most is that I'm reading them at a time when we are finishing up a study of I John, the letter against the Gnostics. May I be reminded that Christ came to demonstrate his love for us in a real, physical way while we were yet sinners, and so we who are in Christ should also demonstrate that love in real ways to our family, our friends, and everyone we encounter this season.

The Advent of Jesus Christ is the most materialistic, the most physical, the most worldly message of the Bible. The Word, who we know is Jesus Christ, became flesh. He became human, a person, a baby, flesh and blood; yes, a real, live, crying, eating, sleeping baby boy. For a period of some thirty plus years, God the Son lived here on planet earth. John says that he and his friends beheld Jesus' glory. Like Bobby squealing with delight over a new bicycle, the disciples experienced the excitement of standing next to Jesus, eating lunch with Jesus, sitting at a lesson listening to Jesus, and watching Jesus teach, preach, and perform miracles.

Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift. But the gift of Christ is not something that we can put into a holy box labeled "Spiritual." Rather, a flesh and blood Christ came into this physical world to save us in the here and now, as well as in eternity. His coming here on earth in the flesh gives us the greatest of reasons to truly enjoy all the physical gifts of God, including bicycles.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Everybody's Favorite Christmas Mammal

Though there were many more thoughtful or profound moments of Hutchmoot 2009, one of my favorites has to be watching Randall perform this song for the first time without busting out laughing at his own hilarity. He came pretty close. Afterall, silliness is next to godliness, don't ya know? What?! You don't like the "Camel Song"? What's wrong with you?!

If you think I'm crazy, you can listen to the "Camel Song" here. This is also a not-so-subtle reminder to go pre-order the new Slugs and Bugs Christmas CD.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Senate Vanity Index

Just in time for election day!

Is it possible to objectively measure a U.S. Senator's egotism based on his office decorations? You be the judge.

I find this oddly fascinating.


Monday, November 01, 2010

The End of October

It's November already? Really?!

Well, then. Happy All Saints' Day.

Apparently, I've been living in the season of life where I only compose blog posts in my head. Many, many blog posts. But if in this brief moment I can't catch you up with all the things rattling around in my brain, I can at least post some pictures from the last few days.

All Hallow's Eve Eve (Not Redundant)

Our church hosted a fall festival and chili supper on Saturday night, and I rested up all day for the big event. My head had been feeling like it was squeezed between a vice grip and I'd been hacking and dripping and congesting for a few days, but a good long nap and some OTC meds helped me recover enough to tag along, enjoy the fun, and take some pictures. Though we'd planned for Ethan to wear Jacob's giraffe outfit, no amount of cajoling could convince him to wear a costume.

Sad Jacob/Elmo before the church festival. He won't show his face. Or maybe he just likes looking at flowers and pumpkins.

We actually had a blast and I am so glad we all got to attend as a family. Seeing our extended church family was a treat as well, as the place was so packed they had to add extra tables. There were bouncy houses, cotton candy, bubbles, pumpkins to paint and cookies to decorate. What more could any kid want? Oh, yes. Elmo.

Daddy and Ethan hanging out (with "Melmo" in tow.)

Little Elmo, or "Melmo" as Ethan named him, traveled everywhere that Ethan went. Elmo is a new-found love. Besides books (right now the perennial request is "Cookie Book" aka If you Give a Mouse a Cookie) or cars, he'd never specifically requested a toy before. Once Jacob got the costume, however, Elmo is a must-have, even at naptime. At least an Elmo doll is easily replaceable if damaged. (Shhh. Don't tell Ethan!)

Melmo enjoyed the swing.

"Oh, no! Don't drop me! Ahhhh!"

Melmo jumped in the bouncy house.

Big Elmo liked the bouncy house, too! This is the first year Jacob has actually worn a costume for more than 30 seconds, so we were elated. He did change his mind last week and instead of a homemade giraffe he wanted to be the fuzzy friendly red monster from Sesame Street. What can I say? He wants to be popular, apparently.

Jacob's cookie decorating skillz.

Jacob and his friend N--er, Spiderman. Can't reveal his secret identity!

Halloween Parade

On Sunday evening, we participated in our neighborhood's annual Halloween parade. In this tradition, everyone meets at a particular intersection and walks down to the swim/tennis center for a hotdog dinner before trick-or-treating. They even had a sweet lead car. Since this is the first October we've been in our house, we weren't sure what to expect.

We actually walked all the way from our side of the neighborhood, arriving promptly at 5:15 per the e-mail. There were a few families milling about. (Note to self: next year, DRIVE to the start of the parade. Less toll on the parents.) Well, by the official start time of 5:30 there were hundreds of kids and parents filling up the streets! They stop traffic in that part of the neighborhood just for this event! According to some old-timers, this was the largest group they've had in a long time. Jacob seemed a bit overwhelmed by the size of the crowd but enjoyed himself nonetheless.

I was glad to see some familiar faces that we've gotten to know through our playgroup and summer Bible study. Jacob kept running up to kids saying "I know him! Hey, that's not a pirate!" or "Oh, she's a princess!" One little kid we'd never met just wanted to meet "Elmo!" Plus, a family from our church lives on the main drag and we got to go trick-or-treating at their house on the way back. We even got called out by name as we walked by. Seriously, it felt like I was in small-town America again.

Here's E at the start of the parade. Again, you notice that he has no costume. We tried, really, we did. Also, we attempted to substitute Cookie Monster for a (temporarily) missing Elmo, but to no avail. As you can see, he was delegated to the next seat over.

Here's a photo Jacob took from his seat in the stroller. This doesn't even give you a hint at the masses of people since by this time the crowds had thinned out and we were at the back. I thought about taking pictures earlier, but wasn't sure how I would feel about strangers posting pictures of my kids. But here I am putting them up for all the world to see anyway, so I suppose it wouldn't have mattered.

So. tired. Must. finish. hotdog. (He did!)

More swings. We really like swings.

We arrived home just before dark. Daddy finished carving the pumpkin while I took Jacob trick-or-treating next door and across the street. We were the first visitors at all three houses! I guess all the action is at the other end of the neighborhood. More candy for us!

Our snaggly-toothed jack o' lantern.

J and Gaines on the porch with our handily carved pumpkin. Way to go, Daddy!

Me and the boys.

Hope you had a happy Halloween!