Two Tiaras and a Sword

Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Christmas in the Country That Almost Wasn't Part 2

Now, back before Thanksgiving, our family in Texas asked the kids for a list of things that they wanted for Christmas.  The youngest princess wanted things like a playhouse for the back yard, and an I felt that she needed a little help with her list.  We worked on it and she came up with a few more practical gifts.  I thought we were finished, when she returned a few minutes later and said she wanted a gift that " one, I mean, NO ONE can buy."  I thought I had already explained the practical thing to her, and that we were in for lecture round two, when she finished with, "I want to go hunting with Uncaricky!"  Okay.  I have no idea where that one came from, but I told her we would ask him if that was possible.  She wanted me to write it on her list, so I did.  A few hours later the oldest princess walked by and added on the list that she wanted to go hunting too.  The oldest princess ended up backing out, and not going, but the thought was there in the beginning.

With the family Christmas party over, it was time for the big hunting trip.  UR told me he would need her ready to go at 5:30 am.  So we let her sleep in her first layer of clothes, and laid out her other  two layers, as well as her socks, shoes and jacket.  She was as excited that night as if she were going to Disney World the next morning.  She asked me, "What do I do if I wake up before it's time?  Should I get dressed?"  No.  Just go back to sleep.  "Should I sleep in all of my clothes?"   No, I will help you get dressed in the morning. "I don't think I will go to sleep AT ALL tonight!"  Yes.  Yes you will.  Now be quiet and lay still.  Are you listening to me?  Oh, she's already asleep.

The next morning,  true to his word UR arrived and woke us up.  I got her up and she was shivering from head to toe with excitement.  We layered her up in her clothes, and sent them on their way.  Luckily, it really wasn't THAT cold THAT morning.

Now let me back up to the Tuesday night before we left…The youngest princess informed us that she wanted a pink deer head, like the one that people put on the back window of their cars…only she wanted a small one with a hole in it that would fit in her pocket…Oooookaaaay….Noooo problem!  Whaaaaat?!?!?  Her friend E got one after her first hunting trip (THAT tid-bit of info explained a LOT of things), and the youngest princess wanted one too.  I told UR what she said…I'm guessing that maybe it was a Browning keychain?  Do they even make pink Browning keychains?

After we got to the country, UR took me out and showed me that he had found two pink deer heads with holes in them small enough to fit in her pocket…They do exist!  And UR found them!  Only instead of keychains, they were to hang around your rearview mirror.  As it turns out, it was exactly what the youngest princess had in mind.

So, I sent them off to "hunt", and promptly crawled back into to bed for a little more sleep.  When I did get up, and go over to the main house, on the kitchen table, I found this…
which was really no big surprise, because UR has a habit of leaving us letters on such occasions of hunting, or leaving…usually with directions as to what he wants for breakfast when he returns or instructions not to cry and miss him too much until we are together again.  Looks like writing runs in the family.

They returned, with nothing but smiles and a prized pink dear head that will fit in her pocket.  And precious, priceless memories of their time together.  She was all fired up and wanted to go again the next morning.

Breakfast and a church service followed the big hunting trip.  Then most of us had to go out and try some target practice with M's graduation gift.  I liked it.  I may have to get one myself in the future.   I only completely missed the target about three times before I finally hit it.  Should. be. perfectly. safe.  Or, maybe not.

The nephews had to head home, as much as we hated to see them leave.  We all lined up and did the wave as they pulled out and down the road.  Have to have fun and laugh, or we will cry.  Hate to see them go, and know it will be a while before we get to see them again.

Then we napped a little with Abby (one of the nice-dogs) trying her best to nap in my prince's lap.  He's not against dogs, just against them sleeping in his lap, while the kids (term kids used lightly here as the three youngest adults were also playing) played a game of sardines.  And UR did his best to NOT help them stay hidden by asking questions and speaking as loudly as possible.

We ended the evening with another rousing game of Taboo.  (And I forgot to mention that we played a game of Scatergories the night before - Avenue A is great if you ever roll the letter A and have to think of a street name.  Of course Avenue C will work too…only it is not worth as many points.  I love you M!!)  We had just as much fun playing Taboo the second night as we did the first, and again, the young prince was creative in how he got us to guess his words…cuddle was our favorite of that night (wink, wink…and another you just had to be there).  Meanwhile, the mighty hunters fell asleep on the couch.

But not before the youngest princess told us that there were three people snoring in there…UR, Maggie, and Abby (Maggie and Abby both being dogs and I'm not sure what that means for UR).  She also helped out by sitting on the floor and singing the remaining dog, Little Momma to sleep before she fell asleep herself.  Our newlyweds stayed as long as possible, and then snuck off in the wee hours of the morning to head home.  J HAD to go to work that morning.  He must have a slave driver as a boss.

She insisted she wanted to go hunting again the next morning.  It was much colder the second morning, and I think UR was secretly hoping she would change her mind, and not want to go.  Well, I know he was secretly hoping it, because he told me.  We had the drill down.  Sleep in first layer.  Wake up and throw on other two layers.  When I woke her up the second morning, I really thought she would tell me she didn't want to go.  Instead, she sat straight up in bed and waved enthusiastically at UR.  Then she jumped out of bed and started getting ready.

They weren't gone as long this time.  But they did see some tracks, and she was thrilled about that.  She told me she slept a little in the stand.  When I asked her how long she slept, she said for about two minutes.  UR said it was more like an hour, and when she woke up she told him she was ready to come home.  So they did.  It was much warmer at home anyway.

UR started breakfast and AT came in and started some bacon.  To this point, no famous AT smoke alarm alarm clocks had gone off…but, I told her I would check the bacon, and when I pulled it out of the oven, not AT, but I set off the alarm.  Yes folks, I am the guilty one this time.  And it's probably because of all the grief I've given AT over the past few years when she sets it off.  Thankfully though, everyone was already awake.  So I didn't wake anyone else up.  Later, UR had to show off that he could check the bacon without setting it off.  We all stand in awe of his amazing talent.

Some of the Aunts and Uncles and a cousin, and some we claim as cousins came to visit then, and we sat around just enjoying being together.  One of the Aunts brought the quilt she made for the newest
baby for us all to see.  I know they will treasure it.  Makes me sad that my Momma isn't here to make it for them, but I am thankful that my sweet Auntie did it.  Definitely the next best thing.

Then before we were ready, it was time to pack up all our tons of stuff, pack it (cram it) in the car and start our journey homeward.  After some lessons learned (You have NO IDEA how I dreaded to tell UR about the issue in the motor home.  But Praise the Lord, it was a quick fix, and everything was okay).  There was a little  laughter and some tears.  We said a prayer (with Maggie somehow managing to be in the center of things), and piled in the car for our journey homeward.  Of course, we had to make our second annual stop in West Monroe, to hopefully see some of our favorite TV stars.  They were not there, but we did come home with proof that we had been there.  We had a safe trip home, and were glad to be out of the car when we finally did get here.

We then began to prepare for our Christmas with my wonderful in-laws.  Thankfully they came to us.  We had a wonderful time with them as well, and they being the awesome grandparents that they are offered to take the kids home with them so that my Prince and I could have a few days alone.  Then my sweet father-in-law brought them back to us.  It was a wonderful Christmas, and somewhere in the middle of all that, I also had a really great birthday.  I am one blessed lady.  Maybe not with an abundance of material things, but definitely with things that are of much, much more value.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Our Christmas in the Country That Almost Wasn't Part 1 (because it's just too much for one post)

At work, I anxiously awaited the text from my husband.  My head knew the truth, but my heart did not want to believe it.  My husband was at the doctor's office with the young prince, awaiting the results of the flu test.  It was the day. before. we. were. supposed. to. leave. for our Christmas in the country.

Sure enough, the test came back positive.  We were all brokenhearted.  How could we not go?  But it looked like that would be the case. We monitored him through the night.  No fever.  He got up the next morning, feeling okay.  Still no fever.  We corresponded back and forth with our family.  They went to the drug store and stocked up on all types of anti-flu meds, and told us if he felt like it, for us to go ahead and come.  So we threw the last minute stuff together and headed that way.

The young prince did fine, and I am so glad that we went, because we had a blast, and God protected the rest of us from getting sick.
 On the way, we managed to stretch an eight hour trip into about nine hours and thirty minutes.  We were told everyone else was there, and that they were playing Puctionary (not sure exactly what that game will have to ask my niece, and all the other family members who were not there yet but were playing it with her).  

Being late also made us miss out on the wrapping of the toilet paper tube parting gifts.  Okay, not entirely, I did get to wrap a very few the next day before the party.  They are awesome!  They are filled with candy (the good kind), and a little bit of money, and everyone gets one as a parting gift, wether you win one of the super fantastic door prizes or not.  No one leaves empty handed.

We finally arrived, and excitedly ran and hugged everyone (I was secretly dissapointed, because my brother did not greet us with his usual goofy hat or wig).  And very shortly after we arrived, my other two nephews arrived, and we did the hugging greeting thing all over again.  We all laughed and talked all at once, congratulating our two recent graduates, congratulating the two who were new uncles, and mercilessly picking on each other as much as possible to make up for the time we had been apart.  The youngest JS's unbelievable hunting abilities were a hot topic of conversation.

We talked about the family text announcing the birth of our newest family member, and how it beat most of our alarm clocks to the punch by waking us up.  But my brother informed us that we could turn off our ringers, and set our phones to not vibrate (Gasp!  Who knew?)  Then he told us that because my sister-in-law has supersonic hearing, "can hear a gnat sneeze in a cotton ball" as he so eloquently put it, that he simply lays his phone on a washcloth on the nightstand, and the vibration is sufficiently muffled.  While my mind started making commercials for a ground breaking new product - the amazing Cell Phone Snuggie - my nephews, all college graduates, had a deep conversation about how to spell the word gnat.  "I never knew it had an N in it!"  And we wonder what is wrong with America's educational system!  So as the conversation bounced around from topic to topic like a ping pong ball, we laughed, some even snorted, and got back into the rhythm of family, like hearing a long ago favorite tune, and the words instantly come back to you.

The next day everyone pitched in getting things ready for the party.  And as people began arriving, more hugging and greeting went on.  We made our usual big circle of chairs in the garage, and I believe we had a record attendance this year.  It is exciting and fun catching up with everyone.  We were all thrilled to be there.  

Okay, maybe some of us were a little tired as well.

We played a few games, and realized that some of us are directionally challenged.  

We played with (or scared), the babies and toddlers around us. 

We dripped (or poured) cold water from ice cold drinks on each other. 

We stole, or hid, presents from each other (I still harbor feelings of bitterness toward D for taking that really cute, ultra soft blanket from my husband.  I seriously wanted to bring that home!)  

We passed the ball of wrapping paper...will it EVER make it ALL THE WAY AROUND?  I think we are fighting a loosing battle.  Just pass the paper people! Just. pass. the. paper!  

We watched how people interacted with each other.  Some very comfortable, some not so much.  But all of us held together by roots that go deep into the very soil we were standing on.  So while the weather raged around us, there was welcome, and warmth in our hearts.  As one person who was new to our group observed, we all got along and had fun.  No fussing or fighting.  The way it should be.  Peace on earth...or at least in the country...for a little while.

We made our annual cousin photos in front of the tree.  Then the cousin photo with Aunt Tricia thrown in the mix.  We were missing a few this year, but they have been informed that all excuses for missing next year are unacceptable.  This is a mandatory meeting.  No more having babies the week of the party.  Plan these things better in the future!  You are dearly missed when you are not there, and things are just not right without you!

Then, and I have no idea how this happened, but my son and his very mature older cousins circled up to show how much they love one another by popping each other as hard as possible with plastic spoons.  Seriously.  Who thought of this?  And how did you convince the others it was a good idea?  I could use your powers of persuasion to get fifth graders to love Language.  I guess all I have to do is make it physically painfully so they can show how tough they are, and they will think it is a great idea?  Makes complete sense to me.

After the party, and the clean up, and a little elbow licking (you just had to be there).  We gathered in the living room (the serious room) to open presents.  We had to do this because if not, the youngest princess would have exploded.  She could wait not one second longer.  The college wars began this year.  Next year we need to let the oldest JS in on it before, instead of after, the fact.  And for that matter, Aunt T and I need to be careful not to put the cart before the horse (or in this case, the accessories before the doll).  But, I think everyone had a great time, and thoroughly enjoyed their gifts.  Although Unca was not as thrilled as I had hoped he would  be with his top of the line Pet Petter.  Yet, he did seem happy with his Mustang pajama bottoms, and all their fancy features (a little bit of TMI going on there).  I even have a video to prove it.  But if you are not family, don't expect to ever see it.  Some things just aren't meant to be shared.  When we finished, it looked like Christmas had thrown up.  
But it cleaned up quickly, and we all stepped outside to hear the coyotes (I finally got to hear them even if it was only briefly!).  And there was a little more elbow licking (really, you just had to be there).

We then had an epic game of Taboo in the kitchen (the not serious room). 

I think the most Taboo words I have guessed or called with a team is 7.  Well, not to brag or anything (okay, maybe to brag a little) but my awesome team and I got 10.  Yes, that is 1...2...3…(JM: "45678910!!!!!!!") in ONE turn!  Now, we have a new record to beat.  Yes, and the next night in our second playing of Taboo, I was dubbed the Taboo Guru.  I like it.  It makes me smile.  And if they had allowed L and I to play on the same team, we could have beat 10.  We probably could have done at least 15.  Isn't that right, L?  And I picked on them, but I loved how our newly weds clicked when it was their turn.  They were in the zone, and all others in the room faded into the blurry edges.  It was awesome.  I also love it when people get creative to get other people to say the word.  The young prince is the King of Creativity in this area.  I bet there is not another human being on the face of the planet that can get their team to say Limerick the way he got us to guess it.  That's my boy!

Then of course it was time to call in Unca and explain why we had all been laughing behind his back.  Literally.  And there was more elbow licking going on, we have video of that as well (and seriously you just HAD to BE there), and laughing until we cried.  Unca then developed an interesting jerking twitch that sent me into peals of laughter each time he did it and continued intermittently until we left.  And two of my children are now $5.00 richer.  Best. ten. dollars. ever. spent.  Ever.  I'm serious.

And now because I have a thousand things to do.  I must stop and get busy.  But never fear.  The next time I have a few minutes.  I will sit and share the rest of the story with you.  I am sure you can not wait.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Praying He has a Warm Place to Sleep Tonight

As I hurried to climb into bed and snuggle between my soft, warm sheets, I thanked God for my house, and bed, on this very cold night.  I even thought  about how terrible it must be, to not have a warm place to sleep on a cold night like this particular night.  I said a quick prayer for those who had no shelter.

Meanwhile, he slept between the garbage cans and the playground fence, beside his bicycle and two small wagons full of all of his earthly belongings.   I had gone to bed before my husband, and did not know that the town police had called to ask if it was okay for the man to sleep there. Had I known, I hope I would have been able to come up with a plan to give him a comfortable night's rest.  I would have done anything in my power to get him off the street.  Common sense says keep people like him at arm's length.  They might be dangerous.  We have a family to think about.  But, I didn't even know about him until the next morning when we pulled up to the church.

There he was.  Sitting between the garbage cans and the playground fence.  One of our young men was sitting on the ground talking with him.  Another of our members had already made a run to a local fast food restaurant to buy him some breakfast.  We looked in our church clothes closet for the one thing he asked for...a rain jacket.  He was invited to join us for worship.  After fretting about his  appearance, he agreed that he could use the fellowship, and  came on inside.  He sat, not alone in the back, but toward the middle, flanked by two of our unmarried young men who had befriended him.  He had a strong handshake and looked me straight in the eye when I introduced myself to him and welcomed him to the service.

After the service, he stood and talked for a few minutes, even sharing a couple of jokes with us.  He denied our pleas to let us provide lunch for him saying that one meal a day was all he usually ate, and that he had a bottle and a half of water, two Powerades and a Pepsi, so he was good to go.

He went out one door, and we quickly scrambled to gather up what  little cash we had.   My husband went out the side door and caught him in time to persuade him to take the cash.  I snapped a picture, and we drove away.

There is a lot I do not know about this man.  I don't know what circumstances brought him to this place in his life.  I don't know about his family, or his upbringing.  I don't know if he ever had it all and lost it, or if he never had anything to lose.

But I know his name.  I know a teeny tiny snapshot of his story.  And I know that he stole my heart this morning.  I know that I have nothing to complain about, and everything to be thankful for.  I know that some of my church family members are capable of  showing true, unconditional love.   I know that some people out there are grateful for the very little that they have, and not so greedy as to take everything from those who are willing to give.  I know that I have never rubbed elbows with an honest to goodness homeless person before,  but I know that I am a better person for my brief encounter with Mr. R. G.

God, please bless Mr. R. G. and give him safety as he travels.  Please help him get to his destination quickly, and please put precious loving people in his path to make his trip  easier.  Lord, please give him a warm safe place to sleep each night.  And Lord, help me to see his face each time I am tempted to turn away and not help those who are in need of Your love.