There have been Christmases that haven’t been easy. I’d be lying if I didn’t ever speak about the hard times. It was never because of a lack of work on either of our parts, it was simply that making ends meet involved a lot of stretching with very little wiggle room.
Lucky for us, we have both been blessed with the gift of creativity, and we’ve learned through our own experiences that “necessity is the mother of invention”. So in the past we’ve stitched and sewn, welded and painted many treasures to gift to hopeful faces. And here’s what gets me…
Those gifts were the most well-loved, happily taken care of things we’ve ever given to our children. They didn’t leave them laying around, letting them be swept up to be discarded. They didn’t lose the pieces or forget about them when they were kicked under the couch.
You see, when you make something for someone else, you gift your loved one your own energy. Throughout the creation of that lifeless thing, you become the energy source, budding with ideas and your finger tips your conduit. And then, when a child tears open the wrapping to find a special doll, made for her by her very own Mama, that doll takes on a life of her own. She is carried to picnics and parks. She travels to the coast and she climbs trees and bakes cookies. She becomes part of the family.
Now, here I sit, years later, with just a little more money than we had during those hard Christmases, not a lot by anyone else’s standards, but enough, in our eyes, for things to be easier. As I count the purchases I’ve made through clicks or debit card swipes, I can’t help but notice they don’t fill the hole that’s inside of me.
What I’ve learned is this…Christmas magic comes from the story that carries it. It comes from how hard you’ve worked to save up to buy that special toy, or how you searched until you found it in your price range. Maybe you’ve been holding onto it since March.
The magic comes from the things that arn’t so easy.
The hard Christmases taught me the most about these things, and although I wouldn’t want to go back to that kind of uncertainty, I wouldn’t trade those years and lessons for riches either because they taught me about generosity and patience, love, friendship and peace. These are lessons that many people will, never understand. They taught me to see beauty in the smallest of places and to love bigger and bolder than I ever have because that is the truest gift I have to offer.
Angry Christmas Tree Day is a tradition that began over 10 years ago when we, just a small family of three, would venture into the woods, the way I did as a child, to harvest and bring home a beautiful tree. This loving family who welcomed me in, Papa Bear and Big Brother, had already established a tradition of an artificial tree, or a store bought tree, but neither of them were partial to any tree-ventures the way I was, and so I knew I was lucky when they agreed to a winter’s tree-gathering hike.
A lovely idea isn’t it? A small family, a snowy December day, birds singing a jolly tune, and a fragrant woodsmoke enticing our noses. Together we’d hold hands and frolic. We’d agree, exactly on THE tree, cut it down with a few magical saw strokes, drag it home like a feather, and decorate it. Just like that.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…You must have known I was joking when I said hold hands and frolic?!
We have argued for 9 out of 11 tree adventures. Sometimes in the beginning, sometimes while setting up the tree (NO! I SAID TO THE LEFT!!!), and always when it comes time to decorate. There have been arguments over how big the tree should be. We’ve fought over who should carry the tree and how to best set it up…where to set it up…who was supposed to water it, and always, always who strings the lights and exactly how much of the decorating are grownups allowed/expected to partake in. Sometimes Big Brother had already set up a tree with his mom, so he wasn’t interested in taking part twice, and I can hardly say I blame him.
After all of this, somehow we’ve persevered. Unlike so many things in our lives that we’ve shed, simply because they weren’t working, we’ve held onto this one….
Perhaps because even though the struggle is real, so are all the good feels that do make their appearances…
So without any more stories …. photos from our 2 year streak, non-angry Yuletree adventure….
More to come…
I’m really beginning to feel the power of a lack of light. I’m drawn to our wood stove the way I’m drawn to the morning sun on the back deck in the summer time. It seems my motivation left with summer’s sun. The warmth and light of the fire feed whatever strength I have left during this season of darkness, and I feel hungry for change
I’m ready for new information, for books and for studies. I feel excited about digging into my birth educator course and for the stack of reading that accompanies it. I’m looking forward to changing our rhythm here at home. There will be new activities in the winter for our kids outside of home. They’ll be choosing new jobs to help out with around our home and I’m looking at a novel to enjoy together during the weeks of January. Plenty awaits us…
But for now, the holiday season is approaching, and I can’t imagine this break coming at a better time. I anxiously await the restoration and inspiration I hope it brings. I couldn’t be more ready.
The first good day after being sick is the BEST DAY EVER! The sickness that made its way through our home was minor in the grand scheme of things, but it served a much larger purpose in seeing how wonderful my life is everyday. It’s busier than I suspect I’ll ever be, there is more laundry than any sane person should tackle in a week, and I don’t always enjoy cooking meals and tidying the kitchen, but these things are the trade off for the opportunity to play with our children on a daily basis, for walks in the woods and for tea shared while listening to stories aloud. Sometimes a few days spent horizontally on the couch is all it takes to remember the beauty of the little things.
So what are we up to on the BEST DAY EVER you ask? Cleaning?
After all, we’re a whole week behind now! So we are…
Wintery mornings, when many in our home are unwell, look a lot like anticipation….
Anticipation for when we’ll feel well enough to become a team again, to join in together in our usual daily tasks.
Anticipation for workshops and get togethers postponed.
Anticipation for the return of our holiday spirit…
We’ve jumped right into our own version of chocolate advent calendars these past few days. In the past, we’ve dabbled in many variations of holiday countdown fads…we’ve added a new book each day, we’ve eaten a small treat, and we’ve opened a small gift. We’ve even used a downloadable story series with one story for each day leading up to the big HoHo’s arrival. All were great, but many of them were not repeatable (how many holiday books does one family need?), some were expensive (a small gift costing 2$ on average for 4 kids times 24 days…yikes!), and some were wonderful but limited in availability, like the downloadable stories.
Though, I think we’ve found our staple.
Each morning, the kids awake, knowing that there is an envelope hidden in our home. There are mornings where it’s discovered right away, and sometimes, Mama uses her intricate hiding places to ensure it isn’t found right away 😉 .Inside awaits a small note, explaining a Yuletide activity for us to complete together.
Sometimes we’ve made cards, cookies, or enjoyed warm mugs of cocoa, and other times we watch our favourite holiday films, meet Santa at the mall, or build our list of holiday plans together.
Some days are fancier than others, and that’s ok.
Thus far, after 2 years, we’ve had incredible success. It’s been a lovely way to create moments of togetherness each day, while making sure we tackle all of the holiday milestones that we’ve all deemed traditional.
How do you countdown to the holiday season?
Just be yourself is a phrase that has always left me more confused than grounded. When I strip away all of the things that have been sprayed over me like a coat of paint… how to be a woman, how to be polite, how to say nothing because no one will listen…
When I peel away the layers of expectation, I always expect to find my true self, yet each time, I’m surprised to find someone I don’t enjoy. I’m whiney, I complain. I am greedy and selfish, and I live according to the laws of safety. My true self is young and inexperienced, and she childishly relies on her ego to get her through it all. So I typically just cover her back up and carry on. I recognized it this time.
Since our latest addition was born two years ago, I’ve been on a journey of personal growth and discovery. Childbirth leaves me wide open. It digs up old wounds and gives me permission to weep over them. It’s a marvellous time to put in some hard work, to notice repeating patterns, to reflect on where I’ve gone wrong, when I’ve been wronged, and how to take responsibility and let go.
I’d like to change the status quo and say that it takes longer for a woman to heal after birth than a mere 6 weeks, or even 1 year. Both in body and spirit, I’ve begun to notice true healing at the two year mark, after the birth of three humans.
Here is a smidge of what I’ve learned this time around as I approach year two…
1.Intuition is wise and should be listened to, but sometimes my inner child wears Intuition’s cloak. I can usually tell because she is begging for me to remain in safety. She likes to rob me of new energy, bountiful ideas, and adventure.
2.Personal growth is just work. It’s all work. It’s the equivalent of forcing yourself to go outside because you know it’s good for you…you’ll notice the benefits once you come in and hang up your coat.
3.Connection is always what I’m seeking. When I feel sad or grumpy or anxious, I’m running up a connection debt….connection to purpose and to people who are special. There is no replacement for the value that connection brings us.
This week, for the first time in 9 years, Papa Bear and I spent a night without children. Yes. This statement is the truth. 4 children, 9 years, 1st night alone…
When I first gave birth to Wildflower, people repeatedly told me not to ‘lose myself’ and not to ‘forget about my relationship’. Although there is truth to both of these statements, I always found that focusing on these ideas alone, left me in a self-centred state and made me increasingly unhappy with trying to keep up. After all, I became a parent to dedicate the majority of my energy to raising good people, and that requires meeting their needs.
I’ve always found that the longer I leave our home filled with life, the more difficult it is to reintegrate. The noise becomes louder, my patience become thinner, and I notice the exhaustion more. The same goes for our relationship, and even though I always try to prioritize what we share together as number one, there are times when children’s needs just come first. Of course, full-term breastfeeding has kept me close to home for quite some time.
But we’ve nearly made it to TWO. Next month, our youngest of four will turn twenty-four months old, and I can already see the changes. It felt ceremonial, almost, to enter this new phase of life together with some time with just us. It’s been entirely worth this long and difficult journey. Yes, I still have sadness over having had the last baby, but I’m also excited about growing into the next phase of us.
I can remember our first Christmas in this house after Papa Bear and I packed our little family and all of our earthly possessions into our vehicle only to drive 4 hours away from our life.
I can remember how tough it was.
How work was scarce, and how our plans hadn’t worked out the way we imagined. I can remember the worry over how we’d make magic for our children while we were just starting out, again. But we did. There were valuable lessons learned here.
I was so eager to return to this homestead, where I remember family gathering together as a child. I can remember the familiar sound of the back door, and the buffet with the tiny Nanaimo bars that different family members kept passing to me, likely thinking it was my first one of the evening. I remember the smell of toast and coffee in the mornings while my grandparents were visiting…that’s the smell of joy!
I can remember the long walk up the laneway from our home across the street. I remember the cold air and the snow fluffing at my feet. I remember the quiet. I also remember the feeling of being pulled behind my mother on a toboggan. It felt a little unstable at first, but it was alway better than walking.
I remember the way my Great Aunt would greet us at the back door, leading way to the cookie jar in the kitchen, the same kitchen I prepare our daily meals in now (only sadly, with fewer walls as our home has an open concept to it. There was something special about that tiny room. There was a legitimate reason to kick extra bodies out of the kitchen because it simply was too crowded).
These moments are magical to me now as a grown up. I remember very little about the gifts I received at Christmas. There were some spectacular ones, for sure, but what I remember most were the times that I was made to feel special. And sometimes just the normal moments of time together, that no one else likely recalls, but they were important to me.
Perhaps the magic we give our children requires a whole lot less than we think?
I’ve known it was coming for a while, but in an unusual fashion, I found myself scrambling when the snow finally began to fall this weekend. I’m unprepared for many things, but winter is never one of them. There were still toys in the yard to be put away, a laundry list of chores for Papa Bear to tick off the list, and even cold- hardy produce left to harvest….which made for an interesting afternoon, while we, and by we I mean, he, shovelled carrots from partially frozen soil.
But of course, no one enjoys a fresh foot of snow like our youngest three. Sparrow is fascinated and equally disgusted by the ‘no’ that has covered the ‘eees’, which, of course, are trees. To watch him discover the snow for what feels like the first time was really, quite emotional. I can’t remember feeling this way with the other kids about the first dusting, but the last baby has brought many new sentimental feelings.
The snow- ventures have been plentiful these past few days, alongside with the need to retreat indoors to warm drinks and snuggling fireside. Ultimately, I can’t wait until we can turn inwards completely, working on creative endeavours inside of our home…. I can feel the holiday spirit starting to sneak in wherever it can…more on that to come…