What My Ex Had Right: A Christmas Reflection

At Christmastime, when the hot buttered rum and homemade toffee are plentiful and the holiday music is on 24/7, I always find myself telling people the one thing my ex-husband had right about me:  he called me a Christmas Crackhead.  The title has stuck and I wear it with pride.

IMG_20141214_065527029[1]In my home are enough Christmas trees that I can read by their light in the middle of the night.  One in my dining room stays up year-round, its décor changing with the seasons.  One is specifically for travel memories; another is for the homemade ornaments I made as a kid and the ones Emily makes.  My living room tree is all earth tones to match my “burnt pumpkin” colored walls and my 9-footer in the split-entryway, seen from both downstairs and upstairs, is always a traditional red and gold theme. Another is all blue and silver to complement the gorgeous snowman-themed tree skirt my mom made for me years ago.

I start filling out my calendar with local Christmas activities well in advance so we can take in all the special events we love.  Emily and I have many favorite traditions—all of them free or cheap—and every year, we try to fit in as many as possible.  Seeing the Trees of Elegance at The Davenport Hotel is a must, as is going caroling, attending a potluck with our dear Sisters of Providence, driving around to see light displays, going on a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown, and many more.  At home, we have a “red box/green box” game where we hide little trinkets or messages for each other, and together with my parents, we enjoy Advent reflections and candle lighting every Sunday evening.  As is customary in many homes, we also do our share of holiday baking and deliver goodies to friends and neighbors.

So when people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” the answer is always yes.  Many will respond with a bit of shock, thinking I must mean that I’ve already purchased and wrapped all my gifts – but those activities are last on my priority list.  Yes, I’ll shop a bit, but it’s definitely not the focus of my Christmas preparedness and has nothing to do with my being “ready” for the holiday.  Our culture’s obsession with commercialism tends to turn me away from the stores rather than to them, and besides, there’s nothing fun about spending a gob of money on stuff that people will eventually get rid of.   Even The Grinch figured it out:  “Maybe “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

The Grinch's revelation, and the Madonna & Child, as seen from a skywalk in downtown Spokane.
The Grinch’s revelation, and the Madonna & Child, as seen from a skywalk in downtown Spokane.

I saw those words in the most interesting venue yesterday.  Emily was shopping in the Santa’s Express—a place where elves help children choose gifts for their parents, and all the proceeds benefit a local charity—and I was waiting in the nearby skywalk connecting two downtown buildings.  A window artist had painted scenes from The Grinch on each pane, and as I enjoyed his or her beautifully done snowflakes, I came upon The Grinch’s revelation positioned so you’re also seeing the two-story Madonna & Child displayed on the Macy’s building.  Clever.

Am I ready for Christmas?  Of course.  Always and forever.  Because I’m a Christmas Crackhead and I can’t get enough of the hope and peace and goodwill that can be found in so many places if we take the time to look.

Merry Christmas!

By popular demand: Emisms from the past

2010 em cowgirlEmism (EHM-iz-um): A quip or quote from my daughter Emily, written for posterity.

Well before blogging was within my line of sight, I frequently emailed stories of conversations with Emily to my family and friends. Since starting the WordsnCoffee blog just six weeks ago, I’ve had several requests to bring back tales from her toddlerhood (and beyond). Here are four shorts I dug out of my email archive for your enjoyment. — Kate


Short-lived contentment (age 3)

After watching “Polar Express,” I talked with Emily about how some children don’t get much for Christmas, like the little boy in the movie who was so thrilled just to get ONE present. Emily looked at her gifts under the tree and said, “You don’t have to get me too much, Mama. I already have SOOO much. Thank you.”

The next day, I was bragging about this response to my sister, who replied with a healthy dose of sarcasm: “Well, if you get THAT to stick with her, you get the Mother of the Year award.”

Moments later, I went to check on Emily, who had her bedroom door closed. There she was, hiding her Christmas unopened presents, one under the covers and another hiding behind her teddy bears.

No Mother of the Year award after all.

One day a week, please (age 4)

One day while driving the 12-mile commute from school to our home, I asked Emily what she learned about that day.

“I don’t feel like talking right now,” she replied. But within a moment, she had all sorts of things to say, and she talked non-stop until we took our exit from the freeway. The topic eventually came to her wanting to have a crab for a pet: if it was a boy she’d name him Mr. Crab and if it was a girl, she would dress it in ballerina dresses.

She asked if I thought she could have a pet crab and I began to explain that a person has to really think about what kind of care a pet needs…

“Mom,” she interrupted, “you talk too much. I only want you to talk on Mondays. Okay, please?”

An unbelievable teacher’s report (almost 5)

Emily received her first progress report from her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Dye. It said, “Emily is such a sweet little girl. She is doing very well academically. She has made lots of new friends and is adjusting well to kindergarten.”

I was proud. I put my arm around Emily and said, “Do you know what this says? It says ‘Emily is such a sweet little girl’…”

I paused to look at her and before I could go on, she said, “Mom! Tell me what it REALLY says!”

True confessions (almost 5)

When Emily was in kindergarten, I packed a lunch for her every day. One week, I began including one of those oatmeal cookies with the cream center, along with her fruit, ½ sandwich, carrots and juice. When I noticed she was coming home with the fruit or the veggie left, she would say, “I didn’t have TIME to eat my fruit.”

“Eat your fruit and veggies FIRST and if you have time, then eat the cookie,” I instructed.

The next morning as I zipped up her lunch bag, I said, “Okay, I put a hidden camera in your lunch box and I’m going to watch and see whether you eat your cookie first.” Her eyes widened with horror.

On the way home from school later, I said in a suspecting tone, “So, during lunch today…”

She gasped and exclaimed, “You saw me eat my cookie first?!”