Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It ain't over until the droopy, dead Christmas tree comes down.

It's 2am on Christmas Eve. Well technically it is Christmas Day but I haven't been to bed so I haven't switched over. I should be in bed but it is so quiet and comfortable and my tree is so pretty. I don't want it all to end.

I just finished the laying out of Santa gifts and I have that wonderful feeling of accomplishment and Christmas spirit. I really really just don't want it to be over. So I will sit here a little longer.

I do love Christmas Day and all the fun and family that goes with it, but I must admit I've always been a little partial to Christmas Eve.

I'm a fan of anticipation. I like waiting in suspense until the big event. I don't look for my
Presents or try to guess what they are. I will voluntarily cover my eyes if I walk in on a surprise for me. So the waiting really is most of the fun. Christmas Day is the big show and once it's over the excitement is gone.

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Well guess who fell asleep writing that blog post on Christmas Eve. This girl. And then there was non stop Christmasing until this moment. This very quiet, relaxed, happy moment. Christmas was the usual beautiful whirlwind of presents, candy, family, delicious food, noise, traveling, more food, and pure joy. We wouldn't have it any other way. But I tell you as I sit here with my feet propped up on the coffee table staring at my slightly droopy Christmas tree, I am happy to be home and back to (somewhat) normal.

We hit my hometown of Senatobia first and enjoyed laughing and eating with my parents and siblings and all the cousins, then we headed down to visit Steve's family in Brandon where we enjoyed more good conversation, food, and cousin play time. Yes I love all of the fun and laughter, but I have become a bit of an introvert in my old age and need a break from all the holly jollies after a while and look forward to quiet couch time. (Give me a day or two and Ill be ready to join the festivities again, just in time for my annual Girls' Trip to South Mississippi. More on that later)

So we made it home mid/late afternoon yesterday and began the great fun of finding where to put all the new gifts when our house seems to already be full of junk. I told Steve this morning that the week after Christmas was such a let down when I was a child, but now as a mother, I weirdly enjoy the practice of getting rid of the old and organizing the new and getting ready for the new year.

I love the start of the new year and all the possibilities. I always have big dreams for weight loss, and healthy eating, and staying on top of the cleaning, emailing, organizing, cooking, and keeping the kids alive. This is when I am my most positive self... Here's hoping I can keep it up!!

Here are a few of my favorite moments from the Christmas festivities. I am so thankful for my goofy family and the joy that they bring to my life!

Waiting patiently

You never know what the favorite gift will be.

home girl with a fancy doll

The stage is set for Dowdle Christmas

Owen and Walt were this year's official "Santas"

Sweet girls

These two were buddies all day

The three musketeers. I love matching pjs.

When the pjs come on that's when the fun begins!

This is us. This is also why I am who I am.

The Summy Cousins

What it looks like when you have enjoyed Christmas to the fullest

December 2010
I might be able to fit all of these new toys/presents in my house, but then I will have to get rid of one of my kids.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lysol is my new favorite Holiday Scent

It is Monday the 19th. Christmas is less than a week away. Normally that would stress me, but I think we are ready this year. We spent this past weekend just relishing our favorite season. It was a lovely weekend full of all the Christmassy things I love and I couldn't wait to write all about it before going to bed on Sunday night, until all of the sudden it was less than lovely.

We are suffering a minor hiccup in our usual holiday merriment due to the fact that Louisa fell victim to the stomach bug last night around 9pm. She is a pretty easy patient and fell right to sleep after she was (and me, and bathroom, and the living room, and all the blankets were) cleaned up. That is when the fun of parenthood begins.

I really never feel more like a true mother than when I can catch vomit in my bare hands, calmly move the child to the bathtub, and begin mopping every surface of the house with high powered disinfectant without missing a beat (or even gagging). And if any one reading shaking their heads because I should be using more environmentally safe cleaners in my home and around my children, please let me assure you, this was no time for plant based materials. If I had a hazmat suit lying around, I would have used it. Besides, I'm not one to shy away from chemicals in my attempt to rid my house of germs. I have been known to spray my children with Lysol when they come into the house during flu season. (I tell them to close their eyes and hold their breath first so I'm sure it's fine...right?)

Santa is laughing at me isn't he?

But with any luck she will be on the mend in about 24 hours and thanks to some quality isolation time the rest of us will hopefully be spared. Of course, things are looking up because it is daylight and everyone is happy and perky. If anyone else is going to fall ill we know from Mom-experience that it will happen in the middle of the night tonight. Because vomit and fever always happen in the middle of the night. Further proving my mom's theory of "nothing good happens after midnight." A theory that is true for both sicknesses and high school shenanigans.

That's the thing about Christmas spirit. Even the late night stomach bug couldn't ruin all the good feels about our weekend. Because Christmas break began on Friday and the kid's excitement is so contagious. We busted out of Farmington Elementary at 12pm and headed straight to Macy's to deposit our wish lists in the big red Santa mail box. This has been a small yearly tradition that was started because...

A. Amelia loves a mall. Like, watch Tiffany sing "I Think We're Alone Now", loves it. She totally should have been born in the 80s so she could have experienced the hay-day of a Galleria Mall.

B. Also, my children tend to get a bit of stage fright talking to the Man himself. There have been a few tears shed after a Santa visit because someone forgot to mention that one thing they wanted most in the world. You remember Ralphie's embarrassing football moment at the department store when he couldn't remember the name of that beloved rifle? Well, that doesn't just happen in the movies.

Anyway, the letter writing is way less pressure to perform and you can proof read and erase. Very important cause you gots to get that Santa list right, or who knows what crazy stuff you will get.
We still visit santa every year, but only for the obligatory picture.

Friday we had a wonderful party with our friends from our Sunday School class at church. Always such a fun night capped off with a rowdy game of Dirty Santa. My friend Kress and her husband were the lucky recipients of this awesome real life Awkward Family Photo that pre dates camera phones and therefore no one said "yikes! we look scared! Let's take another one."

Saturday was rainy and lazy and filled with christmas movies and present wrapping and take out Chinese food. There is nothing else to say about that. It was perfect. Oh wait, and then the we lost power that prompted a candlelit story time and a quick family run to Walgreens in our PJs for flashlight batteries. When the power came back on and we were tucking the kids in bed, Walt said "That was the funnest night ever!" (Steve and I are nailing this parenting thing. We should totally write a book)

Sunday cold and very Decemberish and we were all smiles on our way to church which is a real Christmas miracle. We then enjoyed lunch and naps and I had a chance to start working on this watercolor for a dear friend. This is just the beginning, but hopefully it is on the way to being what she wants for her mother-in-law's gift. From time to time I paint or draw houses for people so they can remember that special place they called home. It's not a big money maker or anything, but it pays for my Starbucks.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer
is singing loud for all to hear! -Buddy the Elf

After another lazy afternoon we headed back to church to watch the kids' choir concert. In a very un-Summy move we threw caution to the wind and decided to squeeze in a trip to Starry Nights (one of our favorite Memphis Holiday events) on the way home from church. We are not good and spur of the moment things and therefore there were more arguments and crying than I would like, but we did it and can mark it off our 2016 Christmas Bucket List.

I don't know about yall, but that list gets harder and harder to accomplish every year. They are growing so fast and we are getting so busy that it takes real effort to do all of our favorites. The cookie baking, the Zoo Lights, the Starry Nights, The gingerbread houses, Christmas movies and Christmas parties. It's alot and if Im not careful I can let it all stress me out and lose the meaning of the season.

There is one tradition that we make a point to keep it up and that is our Advent/Jesse Tree. We started it 3 years ago and it is a family favorite. Not every night is a complete worship experience because.... 3 of whom is Louisa. But every night in December we read God's word as a family and point it back to Jesus. So if we don't get those Gingerbread houses made this year, at least we have that.

Merry Christmas!
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!" Luke 2:11

December 2013
The crazy holiday baking is in full swing. Consequently, the crazy holiday binge eating has also commenced. Which will soon be followed by the crazy post-holiday fad diet and 2014 workout overdose. Happy Happy Christmas to All!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Just Blousing....I mean Browsing. The Lost Art of Gift Giving

We are in full blown Christmas mode now. The house is decorated (inside and out) and the cookies have been made (and eaten). The kids have only one week left of school and so the countdown is on to get as much shopping done before I have an entourage with me 24/7.

My mom came up to Memphis on Tuesday for our annual Mother/Daughter shopping day. Truth be told, we spent more time chatting and lunching and pointing out ideas for our family than actually purchasing. She and I are the same person in a lot of ways especially when it comes to gift buying. We take great pride in searching for and choosing the perfect gift for each person on our list. Of course this also means we are usually finishing our shopping on the 23rd of December, but that is the price you pay for being picky.

You know what has been helpful for me this year? Those lists that everyone and their mother create to help people on their "perfect gift" quest. You know the ones. They are all over social media.... Top 50 gifts for Her. Top 10 gifts for Him (because 10 items is seriously all you can think of for a man). The best gifts for little girls, teenage boys, and your dog. There is a list out there for everyone. I think more people should take advantage of these lists. Why not? The writer of the list has done the leg work for you so you can show up on Christmas morning with an age/gender appropriate gift for your favorite niece, uncle, or sister-in-law and look like a Gift Genius.

Instead there is a new trend. (I say new but it really has been around all of my adulthood although it seems to get more and more extreme every year.) Im not sure what really started it. Maybe it was the gift registry business that became more hi-tech in the early 2000s. Before Y2K to register for a Wedding gift you just went to Dillard's/Goldsmith's/McRae's or down to the local "fancy dish store" and picked out your favorite china and Authur Court pattern and called it a day. But then came the ability to scan any and everything you could possibly want at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and other big box stores. I feel like this was the beginning of people saying "No it's not the thought that counts. You strayed from my pre-approved list? You are dead to me." 

Now I must point out that I am not pointing fingers at anyone. This is a First World Wide epidemic. And we are all caught up in it. In an effort to take the guess work out of the holiday season, we have somehow forgotten the meaning of a gift. We have streamlined gift giving almost to the point of making it obsolete.

Think back to the 80s (which everyone knows I like to refer to as the Golden Years). No one told their family what to give them for Christmas. That's how Ralphie ended up with that god awful pink bunny costume, and Kevin MacAllister received that sweater with the big bird knitted on it. Those gifts weren't on a wish list or registry. Those gifts were specially picked out by the gift giver and memories were made. Back then, the only person you could get away with telling exactly what you wanted for Christmas was Santa Claus himself. Because that was the cornerstone of your entire relationship with St. Nick. Anyone else who was giving you a gift had a relationship with you beyond presents. They knew you personally and therefore the gift was representation of that relationship and their desire to bring joy into your life.

Can you tell this has been on my mind? I've been growing frustrated for the past couple of years with the exchanging of the wish lists and couldn't really figure out why. The joy was fading. I started resenting the whole gift giving part of Christmas and felt like it was affecting how my kids viewed gift giving. I want my kids to be able to receive a gift from someone that is not exactly what they want and graciously say thank you because they know that someone picked that for them. I want them to have those memories. I don't want them to grow up thinking everyone gets exactly what they want all of the time. Even at Christmas.

It took reading the Christmas story for the 1 millionth time to remind me of the purpose of a gift. We can look to the wisemen for our inspiration.

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great JOY. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:10-11

These men came to see Jesus and they brought him wonderful gifts that were picked out specifically for Him. And they had such joy in their hearts because of the opportunity to give something to the Messiah.

Joy. That is what were are supposed to feel this time of year. The custom of giving gifts is meant to remind us of the first Christmas and the gift that God gave us in Christ Jesus.

I would love to get away from the passing lists back and forth and get back to heart of gift giving. I want to think and pray for the person I am buying for and look forward to the surprise and joy on their face when they open it. It may not be the exact thing they would buy for themselves, but maybe, just maybe, it is something they love and didn't even know they wanted. Because I don't want to reduce Christmas presents to a glorified to-do list. Before we know it, my sister and I will be exchanging toilet paper and Diet Cokes (as if I drink diet anything) and wonder why we aren't feeling the Christmas spirit.

We need to stop phoning it in. If we are exchanging gifts with someone, they must be someone important in our lives. I know if we really think about them, we can come up with something that would bring them joy. Sure it is a little harder, but I think everyone on my list deserves more than just what they need from the store.

So if you are reading this, would you join me at reclaiming the fun and joy of a thoughtful and surprising gift? Let's give ourselves the freedom to love on each other and remember those wise men who looked forward to presenting their finest gifts to a baby king. Gifts that could not be found on the Target baby registry.

December 2011
Guess what you get when you mix multiple batches of cookies, several sticks of butter, Christmas Tree cakes, peppermint mochas, lots of Coke, 3 thanksgiving dinners, marathon carb loading, and a 4 course holiday progressive dinner?... A muffin top.  (Some things never change)