An Eventful Christmas

What an excitement-filled Christmas! I cooked my first turkey, Noah gashed his head open, and Leyton threw his brand new train cars in the toilet after a tiny tiff with his brother.

We are so thankful for the time to relax, laugh, and celebrate together. We’ve loved watching the boys come to a fuller understanding of what Christmas is truly about. (Well, Leyton is still learning. But we’ve all got room to grow, right?) Noah is starting to repeat the Christmas story. The other day, we headed to the Capital to pick up some packages from our family. Noah asked where we were going, and we told him that there was another gift or two coming for him. He said, “Mom, we don’t need a LOT of presents.” Love my growing boys.

I still don’t feel quite right not being in the same room enjoying the hours with friends and family, but I remember that God has so richly blessed me. He’s been teaching me lots about feelings and how they play into my walk with Him. As much as it’s not about the gifts, neither is it necessarily about the other comforts or traditions or “normal” that I associate with Christmas. I’ve been contemplating on Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37 recently. To follow Christ means I have to be willing to give up those things (like family) that I hold so dear – even when it hurts, even when I don’t like it, even when I feel like I “deserve” to have our parents and siblings close by. I’m thankful that He walks with me through the hard times (and that He gave us Skype so everyone doesn’t seem so very far away.)

More than anything, I’m thankful that God sent His precious Son to this world as a little babe. Talk about an eventful Christmas! What did that first night look like for Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds? It’s incredible to think that Christ willingly laid down His throne to be born in a humble manger. Why? So that He could one day take a heavy trip to an old, rugged cross to pay a sin debt. For my boys. For my students. For my family. For me. What good news! What a Savior!

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A Different Christmas

Christmas was a little quieter this year. No big family gatherings. No giant spreads of food. No expensive gifts under the tree. It was a different kind of Christmas.

We battled with loneliness more this year than last. Thankfully, we were able to Skype with our parents and give a few virtual hugs. We loved our Christmas Eve visit from the Simos family with their scrumptious cookie delivery. (The cookies didn’t last more than 24 hours – oops.) We also spent some fun nights playing games with the Clines.

We didn’t have our typical turkey-and-potatoes Christmas dinner, but we did enjoy a yummy breakfast casserole for Christmas brunch. (New tradition in the making?)

The boys had a ton of fun opening up their little presents. Funny how the 75-cent bouncy balls and small cups of Playdough were their favorite gifts. They haven’t quit playing with them since Wednesday.

Overall, we loved the slower pace of the week – the time to breathe, love on our boys, and reflect on Christ’s great love for us.

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The boys hanging with Dad by the tree
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iPad fun
Noah's new favorite job: dishes duty
Noah’s new favorite job: dishes duty
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Leyton loved “rearranging” the tree lights and ornaments
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The remains of the delicious Simos Christmas cookies
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A Christmas nap
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The boys “stocking” gifts of fruit snacks, M&M’s and goldfish crackers.
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Breakfast casserole
The bouncy balls were a hit.
The boys and their bouncy balls
A Merry Mitchener Christmas
A Merry Mitchener Christmas

My Christmas Battle

Typical. Just typical. The power would go out on Christmas Eve. This is the one week we have to relax and just be a family.

The dangerous thoughts spread through my mind like poison as we sat there in the darkness.

So much for getting the boys to sleep. No fan to muffle the Christmas celebrations outside. And no blanket for Noah since the washer’s locked. This should be fun.

Leyton’s whimpering snapped me out of my selfish, gloomy reverie for a moment.

“Don’t cry, buddy – Daddy bought some new candles. We’ll be able to see in no time.”

Seriously. No electricity – tonight of all nights?! And right when I’m heating up dinner…

I listened as Scott fumbled in the drawer for the matches. And the guilt settled in.

C’mon, Ang. What a horrible attitude. You’re going to be mad about a simple power outage? This happens all the time. It’s Christmas Eve. Take advantage of these moments with your babies.

The match striking against the box brought me back from my raging, internal mind battle. A small light stabbed out into the night. I paused to stare at the tiny, flickering flame in front of me.

What verse have you been drilling into your kindergartners over the last month, Ang? Could you really have forgotten so quickly?

Then I almost heard the little batey voices shouting out in unison.

Luke 2:11. For unto you is born this day…

Scott lit another candle. Light radiated throughout the kitchen.

… in the city of David…

A third flame. More darkness obliterated.

… a Savior which is Christ the Lord.

Another shining candle. Each new light drowned out more of the shadows that had been lurking in the dining room – and in my heart.

The tea lights in the living room were glowing. I looked around at the bits of brightness that had collectively served to remedy my negative thoughts. My heart was humble and full. My eyes locked on my babies sitting patiently at the table.

“Wow, boys! Look at all the candles! Now we can see!”

“See!” Leyton repeated perfectly in his sweet, high-pitched voice.

“OK – sit tight! Dinner’s coming soon.”

My leftovers-in-the-microwave-for-dinner game plan changed to a gas-stove strategy. As I continued preparing the food, I was left to my thoughts once again.

Lord, are you really trying to teach me this simple lesson? Surely I’ve learned it by now. I know Christmas isn’t about the turkey dinners and the lights and the perfectly planned parties and the presents. I know tonight isn’t about my Christmas Eve plans complete with electricity. Or… do I?

The candlelight danced across the oven backsplash as visions of a tiny Baby in a dingy, dirty manger waltzed through my mind. And I thanked my Savior anew for setting aside His throne, putting on flesh, and willingly laying down His life. For me.

Five ways you just know…

There are telltale signs that come with taking on the jobs of teacher and mother simultaneously. Maybe you’ve seen some of them – the crazy eyes, the slew of half-empty coffee mugs littering the house, the cockeyed couch cushions, the trail of toys from bedroom to living room… Over the months, I’ve discovered a few more ways that you just know.

You know you’re a kindergarten teacher and mother to toddlers when…

DSC04042 Ground beef and gluesticks are the first two items on your shopping list. Why ground beef? Because your family’s been alternating between tacos and spaghetti for dinner the past few weeks. And the gluesticks? Because the colored Christmas trees and numbered gingerbread houses you’re using for math centers this week demand to be glued to their cardstock partners.

DSC04039cropYour kitchen table consistently looks like it’s been hit by a paper/scissors/markers grenade and painfully sits without hope of recovery. Let’s be honest – you can’t really clean anything up. That glorious table is the only spot in the house that will hold all of the projects you’ve decided to start working on concurrently. At least the mayhem covers up your 22-month-old’s crayon art from last week. The only plausible solution to the fracas must be to buy a second kitchen table.

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Your pet peeve is not being able to fill that last empty section of laminating sheet. The dilemma: laminate now, waste the space, but finish preparing for the next day? Or laminate later, risk ruining a few visual aids at school, but wait to find the piece of paper that will fit perfectly in that little area? OK, maybe this one can be filed under “You know you’re an OCD kindergarten teacher when…”

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Your family Christmas tree is finally assembled several weeks late, and your new mantra to the smallest members of the household is, “DON’T TOUCH – JUST LOOK.” You’re also still deciding if the faint smell of burning electrical wires is something to be concerned about, or if you should just chalk it up to buying cheap-o Christmas lights.

DSC03983Your heart swells with pride at the glimpses of learning and growth you catch in the middle of the hustle. It happens when your students get so excited about the circle they just drew that they incessantly shout your name from ALL the way across the room. And when you don’t come soon enough, they rocket out of their seats to shove their precious, dirty faces right in front of yours in their valiant attempts for a little recognition. It happens before bed when your three-year-old asks to read the Christmas story and tells you all about the baby Jesus. And it happens again when your kindergartners sit so still and hang on every word of that same, beautiful Christmas story.

You realize that life is hard as a mother-teacher. But you know that in the middle of the exhaustion and frustration, you wouldn’t give up the great privilege to care for these treasured ones. You’re still learning that it’s OK if things aren’t perfect – that you can concede the varied, aesthetically-pleasing meals and perfectly-placed Christmas ornaments if it means that God allows you to play a small part in the lives of these beloved children.