Holiday Help

On Friday, I had a neighbor girl come and help me clean my house for 2.5 hours. This was the greatest decision in the history of holiday decisions.
Last year, our Christmas season far outdid any other Christmas season. It was tear-jerking and magical and sometimes I’d sit down and just soak up the peace and joy like a parched sponge on the beach. This year has been different.
I’m numb and also lost.
I am so busy that I don’t feel true joy, neither do I feel true pain or sorrow. I just am.
I am also so busy that I keep messing stuff up. The first batch of fruitcake didn’t get the spices at the right time, the second and last batch got baked at 365 for one hour instead of 265 for four hours. I once lost my phone, used my husband’s phone to call mine and heard it ringing behind me, behind me, behind me.
I did two full circles before I realized it was in my back pocket.

I’m working three part-time jobs, and while managing them all NOT in the holiday season is pretty easy, right now it isn’t. Next year I’ll make changes to simplify, but this is a learning year. And that’s okay. Sometimes I need weeks like this to learn from, to help me simplify and appreciate the present moment more.

We all know where my cleaning skills sit. I can’t hide them or fake them, especially in our little house. On top of working my jobs, I’ve also still been dealing with chronic stomach issues. I don’t remember what life was like NOT sick.
But for some reason, I still think I should have a clean house.

Last week, it hit me pretty hard: it’s not possible. With everything going on, including health issues, my house looks exactly as it should! In fact, I can’t possibly think of a way for it to look differently at all.
The glorious prospect of cleaning help.

There came an eye-opening moment of acceptance when my husband was rubbing my back. He’d said he felt prompted to run me a hot bath and give me a massage. It was really nice, and it was the first time I’d felt anything since before Thanksgiving. The self-care given to me (since I’d been too busy to TAKE some myself), had opened up a rare window for my emotions to be FELT.
I felt peace and warm and calm. I felt grateful.
But I also felt my body SCREAMING FOR ATTENTION.

I haven’t been feeding it right or listening to it.
As Danny ran his hands over my spine, it HURT. My inflammation is bad right now.

That’s when acceptance hit me.
I’ve spent YEARS trying to get rid of my inflammation, trying to discard it and go on my way. But you know what? I’ve never accepted it as part of my journey.
So I took a breath and I realized this:

I have to pay extra attention to my body… Yoga is a non-negotiable, as is meditation. I have to eat differently.
Instead of pouring time into figuring out where the inflammation comes from, I can pour time into taking better care of myself, knowing that inflammation is part of me now. This means more water, more walking. This means saying no to things I used to be able to say yes to.
My dirty house has been part of the result of my LACK of acceptance. I keep thinking it will get clean when I feel better, when my stomach stops hurting, when my joints feel normal.
But how about I just PAY someone to clean it instead? I feel better, the kids feel better, and it frees up my time to do things like yoga. I can hear myself better in a clean house.
I don’t expect it to stay clean, but I am okay hiring help once a month. That’s the upside to my three little jobs. I have just enough to pay for help, and it feels like God gave me that gift.
Paying someone is FREEING for me. When folks come and clean for free, I apologize and apologize and never ask for what I really need. But if I’m paying? Shoot. Give me two hours and I’ll have a ready list of what I need.

This morning, I woke up to a clean space. I can effectively work all three jobs from home -since on top of the usual health stuff I’ve also got a holiday head cold -and when I’m done easily clean up my space. Maintaining is easy. I imagine Christmas Day will bring all kinds of crazy house work back into the picture.
So I will set aside more cash.

And now I’m going to stretch out on my yoga mat, drink some water, take more vitamin C, gargle some apple cider vinegar, meditate and then get to work.
Do you think that taking care of myself counts as a 4th job? It feels like it.

I hope your holiday season is reminding you of what’s important, whether because you’re able to actually tap into it or because you’re so far from it, you can’t wait to find your way back.


Tree Decorating and Sinterklaas

On Friday, we went into the city and picked up a real Christmas tree. Danny has always loved real Christmas trees covered in bright, multi-colored lights which is sad because that’s what I always grew up with and couldn’t WAIT to have my own fake tree covered in plain white lights.
But I’m selfish and his reasoning is always, “for the kids” and I can’t argue with that.
This year, I watched Danny plug in our lights and make one long strand of LED multi-colored lights.
“What about white?” I asked (I always have to try).
“Whatever the kids want,” he shrugs.
“Lacy, what kind of lights to do want on the tree?”
“COLORS!” She chirps back. And so it is.
Game, set, match, Mama.

My mom always covered our tree in homemade ornaments we’d bring home from school along with ornaments we received as gifts, and I always felt like our tree was sort of less-than. It didn’t match like Grandma’s tree.
So when we moved into a house big enough to hold a decent-sized tree, I took a CHUNK of money and bought matching decorations: red and gold balls, ribbons! I decorated the (fake!) tree with a sort of triumph that year. And never have I been so dissatisfied… it was an empty kind of tree, it looked commercialized.

Saturday night, the kids pulled ornaments from our Christmas bin with the kind of crazed Christmas Kid energy we’ve all given into at some point in our childhood… and there was glee and smiles and, “Remember THIS?!”
The ornament from Kindergarten.
The Iron Man ornament from Grammy.
“Hey, Alicia…”
Danny dangled a dainty gold trolley in front of me, we’d picked it up on the wharf in San Francisco. We placed it next to the ornament we bought in San Diego on our honeymoon and the “Our First Christmas” ornament from 2004.
We put up the shoe ornament I’d bought at Disneyland, a few branches up from the shoe ornament Danny had bought me at the hospital when I was giving birth to our little Christmas season baby, Alice Michelle.
In a fun in-your-face turn of events, no one wanted anything to do with the red and gold matching ornaments. I had to beg them to hang them up. Once the ornaments with sentiment and memories were up, they were happy campers! The red and gold ornaments were just a pain in their little behinds.

Before bed on Saturday night, I sat next to the tree and inhaled. Guess what?
I actually do prefer real trees and multi-colored lights and homemade ornaments. How ’bout that?


The bottom half of the tree is covered with tough ornaments… the kind toddlers can handle without Mom sweating it. 1205152138

Alice helped put the star on top!

To finish it off, we added candy canes all over… that’s a must in Danny’s book. He bought about 7 boxes of candy canes this year.

Aaaaaand it didn’t take him long to say, “maybe candy canes aren’t the best idea…”
We’ve already uncovered one hoard of half-eaten candy canes hidden behind the tree.

The kids are so much fun. Lacy wrapped the tree skirt around her waist and put an elf hat on -she makes us all laugh with the little things she does:

She has finally forgiven me for teasing her. When we brought our tree home, it was in a big tree net. I didn’t know that Lacy didn’t know the net would come off until she said, “Mom, it’s just… I really like the way the tree looks WITHOUT the net.”
“You’ll be surprised at how good it will look once the lights are on,” I said.
We kept the ruse up for a few minutes. Lacy was adamant about losing the net, and I would calmly reply, “You’ll be surprised at how good it will look.”
Pretty soon, I couldn’t find her. I looked around our little house and found her face-down on her bed.

When she finally came out and saw the net-less tree up, she burst into tears. Having parents who tease is the WORST. I know by experience.

We had waited all week for Saturday to come -not so we could put up our tree, but so we could celebrate Sinterklaas with the goodies our good friend, Martha, gave us. Every year on December 5th, Martha celebrates Sinterklaas with her family. They sing and eat Dutch goodies -she wanted us to share in the goodness in our own home.
“I’ll make them Dutch children yet!” She says about my kids. And you know what? It’s working. She’s spoiled us with rusk and chocolate shavings on top. She’s given us big loaves of Dutch Christmas bread. This year, she spoiled us rotten with Dutch Chocolate Coins and a bag filled with Christmas Dutch Treats!

Martha is full of fascinating stories (and we all know how I feel about people like that!) -she lived overseas during WWII. Lucky YOU can actually read her stories for not much money! Give yourself a little Christmas gift and buy her book. It’s only 99 cents for the Kindle version, and you can read it in one sitting. It’s a great perspective-shifter when you feel caught up in things that don’t matter.

She just announced on Sunday that she’s finished her second book, so I’m really excited to get my hands on a copy.

We were so exhausted from setting up the tree that we fell asleep before having our Sinterklaas celebration, so we celebrated a day late on the 6th. We watched the LDS Christmas Devotional and then gathered around to enjoy a few stories about the Dutch Holiday. They make the children royalty for a day which I think is really the best thing ever -isn’t that the beauty of my personal beliefs? That we are all children of a King?

Afterward, we all went to my grandmas. Alice took her precious pouch of coins with her and unfortunately lost most of it to older kids. She was sad, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I kicked myself for letting her take it, but I also knew it wasn’t the end of the world. Well, last night we stopped by grandmas again to see if she had some Cream of Tartar (we needed it for our gingerbread house frosting), and she didn’t… but she had one rather big Dutch chocolate coin. Uncle Gary had come to rake grandma’s leaves earlier in the day and found one of Alice’s coins.
She was THRILLED -what a blessing. We called Uncle Gary immediately and thanked him.
I tried to get a picture because she was so cute and proud, but she wouldn’t stop wiggling.

Our holiday season is so busy, and I can’t seem to keep the house cleaned or my head cleared this year… but that’s okay. Good memories are being made, and even if I’m not doing my best to simplify, good is still coming out of the season.
I love seeing the lights, smelling the gingerbread cooking in the oven (with melting Jolly Ranchers, mmmmm!), and feeling the feels.

First Comes the Food

“Alice, you have LOTS of TEETH!”
“That’s so great!”
“Where did you get them?”

“From food.”

Broken Hearts

We are deep feelers in our house. We’ve staked our house out as a SAFE ZONE for emotions because we all feel them lots and deep and loud. I do, Danny do’s, and the kids?

Last night, I went to bed early. Danny came in to visit before I shut my eyes and we were about 5 minutes into a conversation when we heard WAILS from the living room. We thought someone was hurt. Trenton was REALLY upset. Tears were streaming down his face.
Danny ran to the living room and then I remembered.
Oh yeah… the kids were watching a BBC version of “Robin Hood”, and I had read ahead (because I do that -I like to know where I’m going to end up, okay?) and found out that Maid Marian dies at the end of season 2. And they were watching the last episode in Season 2.

Minutes later, Trenton was under my arm.
“I HATE THAT SHOW,” he said, “and I hate the guy who killed her and I hate the Sheriff and I don’t want to watch it anymore!”
I hugged him and bit my lip. He was so upset and I couldn’t help but be touched by how cute it was.
“He’s not the only one…” My husband came down the hallway with our 8-year old in front of him.
“SHE DIED!” Lacy’s tears matched Trenton’s.
And then, on cue, Alice started in.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

We talked through it, said family prayers, and then I woke up this morning to find Lacy thus:
She had stayed up to pencil her feelings out. It was adorable, and I’m so proud of her for GETTING HER FEELS OUT instead of shoving them down like I have been known to do.

1202150715bAnd I solemnly swear that Lacy Gayle has my full heart.