Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's all in the presentation...

In continuing with our Christmas traditions, I am on my way upstairs to spend some time with the Santa wrap.

In our home, Santa Claus brings the kids one gift each and he fills their stockings with goodies. The gift is left on the fireplace under the stockings. Santa doesn't bring the biggest or the best gift...but it's something neat. We feel our kids should appreciate people they can thank in person for their gifts ;) After all, a LOT of thought, work and love goes into finding the perfect Christmas gifts. Santa's gifts are always wrapped in special paper. This paper has pictures of Santa all over it, and no other wrap under the tree has Santa on it. The kids can tell right away which gifts are from him that way. This paper is never seen in our home--ever. It has been determined that Santa must wrap the gifts that are found in the stockings and on the fireplace at the North Pole. The tags that he puts on the kids gifts also have Santa's picture on them...and there are no other tags like that to be found anywhere around these parts. Wonder where it comes from?

Pretty cool guy that Santa Claus. I think Mrs. Claus must have something to do with all of this Memory Making too :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Memory Lane...

So much for posting daily about our Christmas traditions...life kept me too occupied for that.

I could go on and on about how my heart was broken this weekend and how raising a teenaged girl is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done. I could rehash all of the details, shed some more tears, feel more regret, delve further seeking a deeper understanding...but I won't. It is almost Christmas afterall, a time for joy.

Instead, I will ramble on about another of our traditions...one that is near and dear to my heart.

Every Christmas since the kids were born, I've bought them each an ornament. That ornament generally has something to do with a milestone or memory that was shared during the previous year. Taking the top off of the ornament bin each year is like lifting the lid off a treasure trove of memories. When we decorate the tree, with the carols on in the background, the kids each hang their own collection. Memories are revisted of seasons past. I hang the first 5 ornaments on the tree, they are always the photo ones of the kids on their first Christmases...and I need to make certain they receive priority placement on the tree. ;)

Sierra Marie's first Christmas-1992, she was 2 weeks shy of 1 year old.

Jared Chaloner's first Christmas-1995, he was only 8 days old.

Shawn Michael's first Christmas-2000, he was 5 1/2 months old.

Malia Kensie's first Christmas-2002, she was 5 1/2 months old.

Kassia Rachel's first Christmas-2004, she was 6 months old.

Some of the ornaments bring back memories of "phases" the kids went through--like Jared's fondness for Star Wars and his Obi Wan ornament, Shawn's love for firetrucks, or Malia and Kasi's Princess ones. Others remind us of accomplishments, like Sierra's ice-skate (the year she learned how), her field hockey one or the book one from the year she learned to read. Each one holds a special place in my heart. We find the perfect ornament when on vacation too, there is one up there of a hula dancing Santa from our Maui honeymoon in 1999 and various other trips.

Like this one from our 2006 venture to the White Mountains in New Hampshire... where we went in the glacial caves on Loon Mountain, enjoyed the foliage, hiked the flume gorge and spent priceless time together. This years family ornament is Mickey Mouse, from our August surprise vacation to Disney World. I will forever cherish those memories.

Sierra's ornament this year will says "New Driver", since this is the year she learned to drive. She is due to get her license in just a few weeks!

Jared's 2008 "memory jogger" is of a locker and the year he went to Junior High. This has been quite a year for him, he is learning a new language (Spanish), made the Honor Roll, made the "A Team" in Travel Soccer, got a cell phone and his voice changed. :)

When I asked Shawny what he wanted to remember most about 2008, he replied..."hmm...Disney". I said, "besides that"...so he mentioned his home run. This year in baseball, he hit TWO home runs...on the same day, no less. It was quite an exciting day for him...and a proud one for his Mom. :)

Miss Malia started Kindgergarten this year, and there's no stopping her now. She is on cloud 9 every day, and absolutely loves it. She gets upset on the weekends, because there isn't school...so this Christmas break could be a looooooooong one for her. :)

"Kasi Girl" 's ornament this year is destined to be nostalgic. She has a rather large affinitity for hippos. She has a collection of hippo stuffed animals which she has been known to carry with her all around town. So, when I saw this, it naturally made me think of her. It plays a song, "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, only a hippopotamus will do...." and Santa is trying to fit the darned thing down the chimney. She LOVES it and has memorized the words. I know that through the years, when she hangs this on the tree...I will look back on the memory of my littlest girl at this Christmas season and smile.

A moment of glancing at the tree, can send me down memory lane and I return with a smile on my face. As I noted above, this tradition and collection is so precious to me.

The ornament that stood out the most to me this morning was this one. It is Sierra's. The year she received it, it was to remember that she accepted Jesus as her Savior that summer. I will never forget the phone call. She was away at Bible camp with our church and she called me to share the news with me. I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes. My little girl had Jesus in her heart. She had Him to walk beside her through life, to guide her and pick her up when she falls. I cling to that nowadays especially. The teen years are hard on everyone involved...hard on the child, heartbreaking for parents. I know my teen years put my own parents through the ringer. I find myself relying even heavier on my faith these days. I know God never gives you more than you can handle...and that I am supposed to "let go, and let God." When I fail to do this, I fail to meet my own expections as a mother. I did that this weekend, and I have forgiven myself, knowing and trusting that God has forgiven me. So it is with that trust and faith that I am looking forward. Looking back doesn't get you anywhere and you might miss what is ahead on the horizon. A good friend of mine at church told me something very important this weekend. She said, "Kaylene, you have laid the foundation for her. She knows right from wrong, she knows what you expect...and someday, she WILL come back to that. Trust that." So, that is what I am doing. I am "trusting in the Lord will all my heart, leaning not unto my own understanding...acknowledging Him, and he will direct my paths."

Merry CHRISTmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus. :) Here's to a year of hope and joy ahead.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Traditions...

"We have a lot of Christmas traditions, Mom"...

"We sure do, Jared."

Realizing how many "must-do's" we have at this time of year, I decided I should jot them down over the next few days for future reference and memory jogging.

This morning started off in the same way that every other December morning begins...with the search for Cocoa. No, not hot cocoa. Cocoa, the Elf. On Christmas Eve of 2006, Cocoa came to join our family. He was given to our by our dear friends, the Geist's. He was the cutest little "Elf on a Shelf" and he returns every year at the beginning of December. He came with a story book, it reads like this:

"Have you ever wondered how Santa could know
if you're naughty or nice each year as you grow?
For hundreds of years it's been a big secret
It now can be shared if you promise to keep it.

At holiday time
Santa sends me to you.
I watch and report
on all that you do.
My job's an assignment
from Santa himself.
I am his helper,
a friendly scout elf.

The first time I come to the place you call home
you quickly must give me a name of my own.
Once you are finished my mission can start.
What will you call me-Markle or Zart?
Will it be Foddle, Criddle or Clyde?
Fisbee's cute, too, but you must decide.

Each night while you're sleeping
to Santa I'll fly
to the North Pole
right through the dark sky.
Of course Christmas magic
helps me be quick.
I laugh with my friends
and report to Saint Nick.

I tell him if you have been good or been bad.
The news of the day makes him happy or sad.
A push or a shove I'll report to "the Boss, "
but small acts of kindness will not be a loss.

In the car, at the park,
or even at school
the word will get out
if you broke a rule.

I'll be back at your home before you awake,
and then you must find the new spot I will take.
You'll jump out of bed and come running to see:
who'll be the first to spy little old me?

Maybe the kitchen, the bathroom, or den
is where you will find me, your special elf friend.
I can hide on a plant, a shelf or a frame.
Where will I be? Let's make it a game.

There's only one rule that you have to follow
so I will come back and be here tomorrow:
Please do not touch me. My magic might go,
and Santa won't hear all I've seen or I know.

I won't get to tell him that you've said your prayers,
or helped to bake cookies,
or cleaned off the stairs.
How will he know how good you have been?
He might start to think you forgot about him.

I can't speak to you, so says Santa Claus.
All of us elves have to follow his laws.

I'll listen to you. Tell me your wishes.
Would you like a game or some tiny toy dishes?
The gleam in my eye and my bright little smile
shows you I'm listening and noting your file.

The final decision with Santa now rests.
What do you think?
Will you get your request?

The night before Christmas my job's at an end.
The rest of the year with Santa I'll spend.
So blow me a kiss and bid me farewell.
I'll fly away when I hear Santa's bell.
Of course I will miss you,
but wait 'til next year.
When the holidays come I'll again reappear.

Until then I wish every girl and each boy
a Christmas of peace and a year full of joy."

So today began with Malia running down the hall and searching for Cocoa. She wakes up much earlier in December...she MUST be the first one to find Cocoa. She's quite competitive, that silly girl of mine. Today, Cocoa dared to venture onto uncharted territory...this is where she found him...

Yes, that's my village and Cocoa is hiding amongst it. He's sneaky, that little elf...

When Kassia saw him, a bit of panic spread across her face...

"Mommy! He's in your...your...'don't touch' place!"
"It's okay, Kasi, I'll trust him not to break anything...he's watched all of you 'look with your eyes and not your hands', right?" ;)

The kids take Cocoa very seriously. Yesterday, when Malia upset her sister by whacking her on the head, Kassia bolted over to where Cocoa was hiding. Malia was hot on her heels behind her.

Kasi was more than happy to report the naughty news:

"Cocoa, Malia was wicked mean to me, she did this to me (bonked herself on the head to show him what had happened)... so make sure you tell Santa that she doesn't get any presents."

As soon as Kasi walked away, Malia could be heard whispering in Cocoa's ear...

"Don't listen to her, Cocoa...she doesn't know what she's talking about".
Ah, just one of many Christmas traditions...this one brings me daily giggles :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In the arms of my Angel...

Take one look at our Christmas tree, and you can't help but notice the beautiful angel on top. She's not just any angel...she was given to me by MY angel. His name is Steve.

I was talking to my brother, Scott, tonight and somehow the conversation turned to Christmas traditions. Not quite sure how I ended up on the topic...but I filled him in on the story of my angel.

Once upon a time, I was a single Mom to Sierra and Jared. Christmases used to be particularly hard for me. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, but back in those days...it was sometimes hard to smile through it all. I'd struggle to save enough money to buy a tree, and would struggle even more to set the darned thing up in the stand by myself. I'd wrestle it to the car, tie it to the roof, bring it inside, hold it with one hand and screw the stand into it at the same time. Often times, it would tip over and I'd try again. Eventually, I'd get it to stand up straight and would put the lights and ornaments on it. At the tip-top, I'd put my cracked blinking star. No money to buy a new one...and it worked good enough for us. Besides, the star was rather like my heart...broken, but still functioning and putting on a good show.

In the Fall of 1998, Steve and I began dating. We had been friends for about a year at that point. I had found a true friend, someone who understood me and how precious my children were. Winter came and it was time to buy my Christmas tree. This year, Steve went with us. He bought it for us, brought it to our home and set it up. Around that time, the movie "City of Angels" came out. We watched it together and I clearly recall how deeply affected I was. I told Steve that he was my angel...in so many ways. That Christmas he gave me a gift...my angel for the top of our Christmas tree. It was a beautiful reminder of what he meant to me...and to my children. Like an angel sent from above, he took me away from it all...the pain, the hurt, the lies, the emptiness, the brokeness. I didn't need my cracked star anymore, he had healed my heart.

I remember hearing the lyrics to the Sarah McLachlan song at the end of that movie and being reduced to tears. It was my story...and I found comfort in his arms...

Arms of an Angel Lyrics: "Spend all your time waiting for that second chance For the break that will make it okThere's always some reason to feel “not good enough? And it's hard at the end of the day I need some distraction, oh beautiful release Memories seep from my veins They may be empty and weightless, and maybe I'll find some peace tonight In the arms of an Angel, fly away from here From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie You're in the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here So tired of the straight line, and everywhere you turn There's vultures and thieves at your back The storm keeps on twisting, you keep on building the lies That you make up for all that you lack It don't make no difference, escaping one last time It's easier to believe In this sweet madness, oh this glorious sadness That brings me to my knees In the arms of an Angel, far away from here From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie In the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here."

Her voice is hauntingly beautiful... CLICK HERE:

When you look at the photo of the angel on our tree below, doesn't she look even more heaven-sent now? :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Smarty pants...

I'm sitting down here checking my email, while Kasi is watching an episode of "My Friends Tigger and Pooh". Darby (Poohs friend) is talking about butterflies and says "does anyone know what this is called? It's what butterflies come out of when they are ready to fly?"

Suddenly I hear Kassia yell..."CHRYSALIS....IT'S A CHRYSALIS!!!"

WOW! What 4 year old knows that?!!

Little smarty pants.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree...

...how lovely are thy branches...
Since last I wrote, it has been an exhausting few days. As noted in my last entry, Jared wasn't feeling very well. Saturday night, he spiked a super high fever and Sunday morning we were at the doctors office. His throat was killing him and he was very weak. Turns out he has pneumonia and strep throat. :( Poor kid...I hated seeing him like that...he sounded horrible and looked even worse. This afternoon, he finally started to slowly turn the corner. He's far from 100%, but is definitely on the mend.
Somehow on Sunday, he mustered the energy to join in the annual decorating of the Christmas tree. Given that it was plucked straight from nature, it is a bit "un-groomed" this year. I rather like it like that. The branches are lovely because they are adorned with our beloved ornament collection. Each one is priceless, commemorating a special occasion over the course of the kids lives...or our marriage. I spend a few moments each day enjoying them, reminiscing about the precious memories and the stories they hold.
I so cherish this time of year...with the abundance of traditions to share...and new memories just waiting to be made.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Little Village by the Sea...

Back from the Tree Lighting, and Malia and Kassia passed out in the car on the way home. Guess the decorating of our own tree will wait until tomorrow evening. We have church in the morning and the Christmas Parade at noon. Jared is supposed to march in it, playing his saxophone. However, his throat has really been bothering him, so we'll see how he feels tomorrow. Then later tomorrow night is Sierra's Field Hockey Awards Banquet. Non-stop...as usual.

As mentioned earlier, we cut down our own tree this year. In the recent years, we've gotten one of those already-cut-1/2 dried-out ones sold in a parking lot. They come from Maine or Canada and the needles fall off not long after we put it up. Our house has forced hot-air heat...which doesn't do any favors to a tree. SO, we found a local tree farm...and searched for "THE" tree...

It was fun for the first 2 minutes...when all of a sudden the owners dog decided to torment us. I didn't want it to startle the kids, so I said, "Dog". I expected Kassia would be frightened, but it was SIERRA who ran like a bat out of hell ... full speed...through the tree farm. She was screaming and heading for Steve. Jared was in hot-pursuit, right behind her. The dog was only a Springer Spaniel...but no amount of me saying, "stop running...don't ever run from a dog" would make her stop. The dog was very annoying...kept jumping and harassing everyone. The kids kept 1/2 an eye on the dog at all times...so what was supposed to be a fun experience, was rather disappointing. They finally accepted the fact that the dog wasn't a ferocious beast...and ignored him. We eventually found a tree that Steve felt was an acceptable height for our house. I like FAT trees with lots of space to hang my ornament collection. I've bought each kid an ornament each Christmas, and it always has something to do with the past year. As you can imagine, the collection is rather large. I digress...back to THE tree (standing in front of it).

Daddy starts chopping it down...

and Shawny insisted on helping...

so Kassia needed to help too...

Jared wasn't feeling so well, so he was content to sit back and take in the atmosphere...

Mission accomplished, we tied it to the roof...

...then we set up a lot of the Christmas decorations at home. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, the snow-globes and music boxes were put on display...and we headed off to the "Village Tree Lighting". There is something very special about our small town. Lots of special somethings really. It has all of the charm one could wish for, friendly people, wonderful atmosphere, a tremendous sense of community and has some of the most remarkable scenery on the East Coast. Speaking of charm...the annual tree lighting is reminiscent of a modern Normal Rockwell painting. There's the countdown to the moment when the lights illuminate the tree in the center of the Village Green --which we nearly missed as we were sprinting from our car listening to 10-9-8-7-6 ...

and residents gather around the tree to sing Christmas Carols together. "Seafaring Santa" is there (he arrives on a boat into the harbor earlier in the day). We had a bit of trouble connecting with Santa at first, but the kids patiently waited for him to make his rounds.

After the caroling was complete, we wandered around the Village Green to see the other items on display. We spent a few moments enjoying the nativity...and seeing baby Jesus. It's important to remember the REAL meaning of Christmas...

Then on our way out, we took the chance for the girls to sit on Santa's lap...Kasi insisted on it. She wasn't very shy around him. Santa gave the girls some squishy tree thing and told them to squeeze it 3 times on Christmas Eve and their wish will come true. THANKS Santa, got a crystal ball for Mom and Dad?!?!

Shawn got a baseball from Santa, which he thought was pretty cool.

Miss Kasi played peek-a-boo with the animated St. Nick in the chimney...

then we headed home. Earlier today, I pulled one of my prized possessions out of the attic. It's my very own Village. It used to be so special to me to set this up every year, but once Shawn was born, I quit doing it. He seemed quite obsessed with touching it when he was a baby, and it would have devastated me to have any of it break...so I put it away. Then I had Malia, then Kassia...just too many curious fingers. This year, I decided it was time to try setting it up again. Kasi, Malia and Shawn loved watching me put the people in their places, and enjoyed listening to me explain what the buildings were. We picked up some "fake snow" and Shawn helped me sprinkle it on the village when we got home tonight. We sang, "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..." as we lit it up.

I'm looking forward to getting the tree decorated tomorrow and hopefully Jared will feel well enough to be in the parade. Today was a special day in our little village by the sea. :)

Full Circle...

This is "Holidays-by-the-Sea" weekend in town.

The official kick-off of my favorite time of year. This morning my mother and I went to church for a "Ladies Wreath Making" event. I can't begin to describe how much I enjoyed it. Somewhere along the bumpy road of the past 24 years, my Mom lost her Holiday spirit. I won't get into the details, since it isn't productive to look backwards. Suffice to say, it is magically holly-jolly to see it emerging again. Making wreaths is quite the task, I had no idea how involved it was. Here's Mom getting starting on selecting her balsam and boxberry...

We enjoyed 2.5 hours of fun together. Then headed out with our works of art...

After I got home, Steve, the kids and I headed out to cut down the perfect Christmas tree. We plan to decorate that tonight. Right now, however, I must go ... we are heading to the official Lighting of the Tree in town. Bells will be ringing, carolers will be singing...Mom will be there.
Like the shape of a wreath, she's coming full circle.
Yeah, we'll keep looking forward...it's much more exciting. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

December already?!?!...

Christmas is always my favorite time of the year. It is packed full of memory making opportunities. Somehow though, December really snuck up on me this year. Perhaps it's the tight financial situation most of us are in, or the fact that Thanksgiving was so late this year...whatever it is, I'm just not ready for it yet. I've done next to nothing for shopping and don't even know what I'm buying the kids this year. We decided to essentially nix the toys and senseless gifts and try to find items that can either be used by the family (DVDs, etc) or to DO something instead.

The annual Christmas parade is this coming weekend and Jared will be marching it in with his saxophone. That parade always seems to kick off the season nicely, and we will get our tree this weekend as well.

I needed a family photo for Disney...they are featuring me in their next newsletter. They wanted one of all 7 of us, and those are few and far between (I'm usually behind the camera). Since we were in need of that photo...and in preparation for the Holiday, we tried to get a decent family photo today. I thought we might try having all 7 of us on the card this year (as opposed to just the kids). I am NOT fond of how I look at ALL...so will likely be attempting a different shot of the kids for the card. Maybe Santa will bring me a new figure this year.
I don't know what I'm doing for Christmas gifts or how I'm going to pull all of this off in 3 weeks or so. I love a challenge though, so I'm sure I'll figure something out. I do know one thing...when I look at this photo...I am reminded that I truly am five times blessed. Just look at those adorable faces...and that's one handsome guy in the middle too! What did I ever do to deserve this wonderful family?!