Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Tidings Begin

Christmas has come and gone and, as always, I'm left feeling as if it blew past me when I wasn't paying attention. So much preparation and then... POOF! It's over.

We were a busy bunch during the holiday season, and of course it's not completely over as tomorrow is New Year's Eve. I'll share with you some of the highlights of our holiday season, beginning with the base tree lighting ceremony in early-December...

Friends from our chapel sang Christmas tunes and were quite a hit. I always enjoy hearing these two sing together as their voices blend beautifully.

My hubby and some of our local Air Force friends gather during the tree lighting festivities.

This adorable little girl was to perform with her dance team, but the poor thing developed quite a severe case of stage fright and just froze in front of the crowd.

This is my girlfriend's precious little boy and also the object of affection for lots of people, me included. I get my baby fix whenever C's around.

These ladies work for MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation for those not familiar with the acronym) and they dressed in candy cane attire for the event. They looked cold, but very cute!

This guy donned a Christmas tree suit for the occasion. I think it takes a man very confident and comfortable with his masculinity to put one of these babies on.

This is just one of many Christmas-related events we attended during the holiday season. More to follow... and I still have to share some photos of previous trips to Portugal and Germany. I have so much to show you! In case I don't post again before January is here, allow me to wish you a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The age of innocence is fleeting

I knew this day was coming, and it's finally arrived. My oldest son, at the age of 13, has decided he's outgrown Santa. I knew this was the case as he'd been questioning the very idea of the great, magical bearded one for probably the last 2-3 years. In fact, I'm sure he stopped believing a while ago, but just didn't announce the news to the family for fear of having nothing under the tree on Christmas morning.

We were recently at a kids' Christmas party on base, and Santa was handing out the gifts under the tree, calling each kid up, one at a time, to sit on his knee and have his/her photo made. "D" wasn't keen on sitting on anyone's knee and he came to me to ask if he could opt out. Our truth-revealing conversation went something like this...

D: Do I have to sit on Santa's knee?

Me: Why don't you want to sit on Santa's knee?

D: I'm too old for stuff like that.

Me: What makes you say that?

D: I don't know.

Me: Don't you believe in Santa?

D: No, not really.

Me: Why?

D: Mom, I just don't think it's possible.

It wasn't so much what he said, but how he said it that made me realize he truly no longer believed. I knew it didn't matter what I said. His mind was made up.

Me: (Slightly panicked) Does your brother still believe?

D: I don't know, but I think so.

Me: Keep it alive for him!

D: Got it!

We talked about how the belief in Santa is a magical part of Christmas and we don't want to ruin that fun for other kids and their families, so he should keep his thoughts and beliefs to himself. I believe he gets it.

I know now that it's true... the age of innocence is long gone, and that makes me a little sad. I find myself wanting to turn the clock back and make time stand still. My little boy is a young man now, a young man with feet bigger than mine and 6 more inches on his frame than this time last year. He's growing up and leaving fairy tales, childhood games and pretending behind. How can that be?

Were his Christmases magical? Will he carry with him cherished memories of Christmases past? I certainly hope so, as I have such fond memories of Christmas as a child. Everyone should, don't you think?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Needin' a vacation after all the Christmas preparation!

Folks, Christmas is upon us! Are you feeling the joy or are you struggling to get everything done before Christmas Day arrives? We've been shopping and decorating and baking and writing newsletters and addressing cards and going to parties until we're nearly wiped out. And it's only 7 December!

Everything is such a production, you know? Take gift buying, for example... you have to figure out what to give the recipient, which can be very difficult, especially when some recipients give you absolutely no idea what they'd like to receive. (If you're on the receiving end of one of our gifts and you think I'm talking about you, I probably am.)

Next you have to set out to find the gift you're looking for, and when you live in Spain, my friend, it can really be challenging. First of all, shopping here is just plain different than shopping in the States. There aren't as many options. I rarely find what I'm looking for. Thank God for online shopping!

Once you've purchased a gift, you have to wrap it, right? I used to love to wrap until recently. It's quickly becoming one more step in "THE PRODUCTION." I'm mailing the gift and sending it across the ocean. It's already a hidden surprise in a box, right? Why do I need to wrap it too? I know I should make it all pretty so the recipient feels special, but the cost of shipping alone should be enough to make the recipent feel special. Boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape ain't cheap!

And to top it off, every stinkin' box has to have an accompanying customs form. Have you ever had to fill out one of these babies? Filling out one isn't such a big deal, but it gets rather old after the fifth form. I'd rather have a poke in the eye with a very sharp stick than to fill out those forms. And of course if you live overseas, you have to mail your boxes very early if you want them to reach their destination before Christmas. When most people are still just thinking about their Christmas gift lists, our boxes have to be in the mail.

I've been relying heavily on online shopping for the last two Christmas seasons. I'm sure my family thinks I must be the laziest person there is, but in the interest of saving time, energy, money, and more importantly my sanity, I've decided to purchase online and have the gifts sent directly to the recipients. Sometimes gift wrapping is an option, and sometimes it's not. Many people are receiving gift cards this year. If you're one of those people, please know I love you, but I simply had no clue what to buy for you. You can take your gift card and "Get yourself something nice... something REAL nice" (Quoting Cousin Eddie from "Christmas Vacation") on me.

By the way... who takes care of the gift purchasing in your house? I take care of it around here, and while I've willingly accepted that responsibility, I wonder what would happen if I didn't do it. Hey, maybe that will be at the top of my wishlist next year...

Marva's Christmas Wishlist:
1) Someone else purchases all of the Christmas gifts this year

Gift buying is just one of the many responsibilities we have during the Christmas season. There's also the baking. Do you feel like you've baked for an army? We need to bake for the single service members here, which I think is a great idea since these folks are far from home and without their families. Showing them a bit of Christmas cheer is a nice thing to do, but how many cookies do I really need to bake before I've adequately passed around the Christmas cheer? Four different groups have asked me to provide cookies. And my oldest son helped make cookies for a group last night. I'm going to be so tired of baking that I won't have the desire to bake for my own family. The Scrooge in me wants to know when someone is going to bake me some cookies.

This year it took us only a day to decorate for Christmas. It should have taken us a week as we have more decorations than any family ought to have and now we're both in need of traction after our marathon decorating day. There are the outdoor lights and decorations to put up as well as the tree and indoor decorations. I have to literally remove most of our everyday home decor in order to make room for the Christmas decor. We have bins upon bins of decorations. Whose fault is that? I have to admit the fault lies with me as I love Christmas decorations, but only when I'm shopping for them, not while I'm doing the decorating.

We're still in the process of printing out our family newsletter that we always send along with our Christmas card. We got a new computer recently and we had to install some new software. Let's just say that we needed some technical support last night when we started printing out these suckers. One year we didn't send our newsletter to many of our family members and friends because we figured they pretty much knew what was happening in our lives and that they might be bored with it. That backfired in a big way and we had to "renew subscriptions" so to speak. I don't understand it... it's not like the newsletter is particularly clever or creative, but for some reason, people want to be on the receiving end.

Anyone who sends out Christmas cards knows this is definitely a lengthy process. You have to pick out the cards you want to send, decide whether to include a family photo and subsequently take care of those details (frequently a HUGE headache), determine how many cards you need to send out, type and print out the family newsletter (if you're in to that kind of thing, and obviously we are) buy the stamps (if your local post office has them), address the cards (We print out labels on the computer, which is always a lesson in patience and perseverance), stuff the envelopes with cards and newsletters and maybe a photo, affix the stamp as well as labels for your return address as well as the recipient's address times 300.

Yes, we send nearly 300 Christmas cards. My rubber stamping friends who make their own Christmas cards have my respect and admiration. I'd have a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome if I made cards for 300 people. Not happening! So people, if nothing else, this should point out that you ought to feel extremely privileged if anyone sends you a Christmas card, as many people no longer feel the need to do so and have gone the route of online cards and newsletters for various reasons to include going green to save the environment, ease of convenience, and saving money. Their decision is probably based a little more on escaping the whole process of sending cards. It's time-consuming, expensive and can be a real aggravation, especially when you run into technical difficulties.

Are you going to any Christmas parties this year? I've been invited to 8 parties that I think of, just off the top of my head. Don't get me wrong, it's great to be included and to have places to go, and parties are generally fun. Parties also require a great deal of time and energy too. You have to be concerned with what you're going to wear, which may require a shopping excursion or two, not to mention a trip to the hairdresser and/or the dry cleaners. If you have younger children at home, you have to consider a babysitter and food preparation in your absence. Luckily we're beyond the babysitter stage, but we still have to think about what the boys are going to eat when we're not here. We need to teach those boys to cook for themselves!

There's also the host/hostess gift one feels the need to purchase for parties. If you're going to a kids' party and Santa will be there, you can bet your child will be receiving a gift from the bearded guy, which really means you'll need to shell out another $10 (or less) for a gift for each of your kids. And of course you have to take food with you everywhere you go as every event is a potluck. If your children are school aged, you'll probably be needing to purchase teacher gifts and possibly treats for their friends as well. Calgon, take me away!

Do I sound like Scrooge? I suppose I do, but honestly, my giddy up 'n' go has gotten up and went. I need to ask Santa for more energy, an attitude adjustment and a whole lot of Christmas spirit.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Listening to some new tunes

I just got this new CD in the mail and I'm lovin' it! Mark Bishop is a southern gospel singer and a former classmate of mine from Kentucky. I've told you this before, but I'll tell you again... Mark and I went to school together from 1st grade all the way through our senior year in high school, and I'm just so impressed with his talent. Looking for some good Christian music that tells a great story? Visit Mark Bishop Music where you can purchase your very own copy of Mark's latest CD.