Growing up on Christmas Tree Night

Christmas tree night is a big deal to all of us.  We blast Christmas music, make hot chocolate and cookies, pull dusty tubs out of storage, scratch up our arms straightening tree branches, and end the with an imperfectly perfect tree production.  It is a magical night.

Except when it isn't.

I have learned that my own expectations for this night can sabotage my own joy and make me grouchy or sad.

Last night was Christmas Tree Night at the Fry house (November 11)! We've always put our tree up early, but this year we decided to do it maybe even a little earlier - before the Christmas Crazy hits - so that we have more opportunities to spend quiet nights around the tree.  There aren't too many quiet nights in December around here, so we're getting a head start.

I dragged 6 kids to Walmart, and bought cookies and hot chocolate mix and potatoes.  I put the hot chocolate in the crock pot and had the kids do a 15-minute boogie and light candles so the evening would start off tidy and peaceful.

We started the evening several hours later than planned, but I rolled with it.  David got home from the office late, we got home from Walmart late, David had to do some work with the dogs.  I ran out to drop off something for a student and get a Christmas movie while David pulled out the tree.

Then David called me while I was out an told me that he had an emergency hospital call to make in the next town (which meant an hour driving, plus hospital time.)  I was disappointed, but knew he needed to be there an wanted him to be.  So I keep on trucking like a good soldier.  When I got home, the kids had already put up the tree so I was encouraged that we were still moving forward.  I worked on the soup and decided to make the best of it without David.

Then we pulled out the lights and realized that I had bought the wrong kind.  So I had to run back to
Walmart and get lights.  I was still holding steady.  But when I got back from Walmart and no one was around and the living room was dark and David was home but upstairs, I didn't feel so brave anymore.  I imagined that he was up there reading or something (instead of remembering that he probably had to change out of his suit.) And I started feeling sorry for myself and irritated.

We sat down for supper - our favorite potato soup and sparkling juice - and in the middle of the meal David and I had a "marital misunderstanding."  Then I was really in trouble.  We apologized and talked it out, but by then I was really struggling to feel the warm happy Christmas Tree Night feeling.

While we put up the tree, I was easily irritated at David for taking too long to pick music on his phone or not helping the kids with the lights enough or for breathing wrong.  And Karissa was distracted with her own intensely creative ideas and wasn't engaged in the tree decorating like I wanted her to be and someone dumped hot chocolate on the freshly shampooed carpet and the 3-year-old disobeyed me and lied about it and had to be disciplined and we couldn't get the Christmas DVD to work so the teenager spent the whole time trying to solve that for us....and I was just not feeling the Christmas Tree Night peaceful fuzzies I dreamed of.

I had to keep telling myself to choose to be happy.  I kept watching to see who was engaged and who wasn't.

I'm a real treasure when it comes to high expectation for an evening, yes?

So I had to let go of my high expectations.

And here's the other big thing - I had to let my family be themselves.  To let go of micro-managing their involvement and analyzing their enjoyment levels.  I'm working on that. And I'm making progress, but I have yet to arrive.

But in the end....the tree turned out really, really gorgeous.  And although we never could get the DVD to work, we ended the evening sitting together in the living room. And one kid fell asleep on the couch an slept by the lit tree all night.   And we had warm, happy fuzzies after all.

And if David had found it necessary to stay at the hospital and hadn't been able to come back home to us in time to work on the tree, I would have had to adjust my expectations even more.

I reminded myself through the evening how blessed I was to have a husband and daddy in there helping get the lights just right.  And I reminded myself that my perceptive kids were watching me, and if I sunk into a mood of disappointment or sadness, it would affect them!

So I guess I'm just confessing that I'm still growing up.  I'm 39.5 years old.  And I'm still growing up.

And now - it's Christmas Tree Morning.  And I'm letting the kids watch a Christmas video BEFORE they've even finished their Saturday morning chores!  And I've brought my book and my blogging down in front of the gorgeous tree.  And it's kinda nice, being a grown up.

Election 2016

I wasn't all that wound up about this election, to be honest.  I mean I cared, but I wasn't all in a tither about it.

I did find it wearying that people seemed to be distracted by voting for (or against) strong personalities, not the actual political domino reaction that happens after election.

Image result for election photo

But that's not what I want to talk about.

My friend called to ask me my reactions after the election.  I told him that my heart is stretching.

I am seeing election...more through the eyes of others who aren't just like me these days.  I am seeing more into the hearts of people whom many of us would almost consider enemies.  We roll our eyes or pity them for not seeing things our way or are downright HATEFUL about their life views and choices.

My beautiful friends who would identify with the LGBTQ community, for instance, or the strong people I love and work with from the Latino community. Or the people in my neighborhood who face such different challenges than me. They see the world from a different place.  And I'm hearing them in new ways.  And loving them in new ways.

My job is not to indoctrinate them in all the things they don't have right.  My job is to walk with them.  Talk to them.  Eat with them.

To be honest, growing up in a subculture that tends to be scared to even read a book from another perspective or interact with different and new ideas, this is not what I have found to be the normal reaction to things.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not changing my theology or my beliefs or my convictions.  But I am saying that these "other" people are REAL PEOPLE.  They are hurting and scared and have real reasons that they see things the way they do.

I want God to keep stretching my heart.  To make room for more of the humans.  My boxes are getting bigger.

I want to ask the questions that Jesus would ask.
I want to let Him hold me steady in a rushing river of ideas and beliefs.
I want to walk with others with an open heart.
I want to not think of myself more highly than I ought to think.

And for me, this election has been a potent reminder of all that.

Less ranting.  More loving.

To purchase this print:

Autumn Sunday Afternoon Daybook : October 23

::Outside My Window::
The windows are dark.  The house is asleep.  I am typing in the fringe hours.

::I am Listening to ::
The comforting sound of the box fan blowing in the darkness.  In my opinion, the noise and breeze from a box fan is one of the most comforting things on earth.

::I am Thankful For ::
A laptop.  And a dependable, affordable computer shop in town.  David and I both had computer crashes the same week.  My desktop PC has left this life.  I kill computers dead.  Lots of them.  So I'm thankful for a laptop until I save up the money for a new desktop.  Typing on the phone just doesn't cut it for me.

::I am Pondering ::

The absolute ridiculous nature of what is going on surrounding this election.  I just shake my head.

:: I am Remembering ::

1803 Josephine Street.  The Wolf family home for over 30 years.  It holds a powerful lifetime of beautiful memories for all of us.  And after Rachelle and I both admitted to each other recently that we still sometimes grieve for that big old house, I realized something really cool. 

After we moved 2 years ago from our little-teeny two bedroom house into this big huge 1900 place, my kids often talked about missing the old house.  I felt sad - and hurt - and tried to talk them out of their sadness.  I was afraid that the new house didn't feel cozy and like home to them.  But I just realized yesterday what a wonderful thing it was.  They were just loving the memories of warmth and togetherness and so many years of family in that little place on Blinn Avenue.  It wasn't a reflection on the new house - it was a compliment to the connection they felt to the old home.  I didn't put that all out there as good as it was in my head, but hopefully you get the idea. It made me feel a lot better, anyway.

:: I am looking forward to/Dreaming of :: 
Well - in my last daybook I said I was dreaming of ziplining.  I did it - twice -  and loved it.  It was waaay less scary than bungee jumping, but I didn't know that till I took the first step off the platform.  I would almost describe it as relaxing.  In an uncomfortable and exhilarating way.  Now I'm dreaming of doing a zipline course of some sort.  My sis-in-law Debbie has one picked out for us.  I'm there.

:: Some of what I've been reading::
Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequest.  (Hard Copy.  Life-Changing/Heart-knowing.  Passed it right on to my sister.  Plan to re-read it a lot.)
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Audible.  To check up on Kayla's world.  I loved it.)
The More of Less, by Joshua Becker (Listening on Audible.  It's good.  Not all that new to me, but good reminders.  Not done with it yet.)
Ember Falls - the sequel to The Green Ember (listening with the kids on Audible)
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequest (Just starting to read on Hoopla)
Hoopla App:  Total awesomeness for borrowing books and audio books!
Jesus Calling (Devouring this on Kindle, multiple days at a time.  It has just been what I needed.)
The Cozy Life:  Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge, by Pia Edberg  (Reading on Kindle.  Fits me. Speaks my language.  A comforting read.)
The Fringe Hours, by Jessica N. Turner (Reading on Hoopla)

::From the Kitchen::

The easiest drop biscuits ever:
2 cups of self rising flour
1 cup of milk
6 T mayo
Stir until just mixed, spoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.
Add cheese to mix before baking and brush with garlic butter after baking to make them cheesy-garlicky.

And for dinner today I made THIS monstrosity of chocolate.  Probably the most expensive, richest and chocolatey-est dessert I've ever made.  Three layers of dark chocolate brownie filled with Ghirardhelli chocolate chips.  With graduated layers of whipped ganache between:  Dark, Milk and White.  Served with freshly whipped cream.  It is rare to find something that is almost too much chocolate for even me.  This thing is crazy-decadent.

::I am Thinking::
 ..about how many things I want to blog about, but am scared.  I didn't used to be so scared.

Image result for do it scared quote

::I am Creating::
I am making plans for our trunk or treat theme.  Trying to keep it simple while not embarrassing ourselves. Pretty sure that balance is not gonna happen.

:: Towards raising hungry learners::

We just finished reading The Trumpet of the Swan (loved it!)  and started another book about the civil war (can't remember the name and too lazy to go look.)

::Towards Rhythm and Beauty::
I am actually desperate for some daily/weekly rhythm.  As I type out the schedule for this week, even the rhythm is punctuated with things I do not feel I can say no to.  I fear this week is going to be another week of survival.  It is going to require absolute resolve for me to get some quiet days to re-establish rhythm.

::To Live the Life ::
There has been a sort of spiritual and practical rebooting going on in David and I lately.  I am enjoying the rest and peace of Truth re-established deeply in my heart recently when I got away alone for a few days. {blog post to come, perhaps?}

::I am Hoping and Praying::
 About some dreams....and the wisdom and courage to know how to proceed.

 :: In the Garden::
I am absolutely amazed that my summer flower pots are still blooming beautifully.  (I didn't kill them!!!!)  This year's mums are not very hearty, so they are requiring lots of babying to even keep them alive.  But they are still pretty. 

 ::Around the House::
 I don't want to talk about it.

 ::One of My Favorite Things::
 The smell in the air on a cool autumn evening.  Oh my goodness.  Tonight after church, the air was perfect.  Gentle breeze in the trees. Cool air, but not cold.  The smell of autumn leaves.  Good stuff.  I just stopped in the parking lot and breathed a lot before heading home to the chaos of Sunday Night at our house.

::The Kids::

Well - Our church/school community has been dealing with the plague.  Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. One of our kids got it, and so did a bunch of other kids - and the school closed down 4 days.  Then we kept our whole crew home extra days to be sure none of them were carriers.  They have worked hard on their work at home, but we are all ready for them to be back to their normal work schedule at school.  But a few white spots showed up on Corin's tongue yesterday.  So he can't go to school.  And Kayla has a sore throat, so we are keeping her home just in case because strep is going around.  I'm just over it.  I'm tempted to just send them to school sick and let everyone take their chances with the germs.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

:: The Man of the House ::
He has been reading a lot of the old devotional classics.  And praying.  A lot. I love that.

::A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week::

 Monday:  (Our day of Sabbath Rest)  {blog post to come, perhaps?}
I hope to be outside.  I need to be outside.  I have some wonderful books to read and some things to write.  And I've been wanting to take an autumn-leaves spin on Kayla's cruiser bike.  BUT.... I am fighting the strong urge to use tomorrow to catch up. I keep telling myself that I did fun stuff with the kids on Saturday, so I can work myself crazy tomorrow.  I am in a bit of a battle with myself at the moment.  You can pray for me.  

Tuesday:  (Desk & Laundry Day)
I have a meeting with a new beautiful friend, and after that am planning on keeping one of our new neighbor girls while her family finishes moving in.  As far as desk day, I am feeling a bit buried.  I have been struggling for WEEKS with some insurance application issues.  I am dangerously behind on our MVELOPES budgeting, and I dread facing the mess that has accrued.  I also need about 5,280 hours to sort through random papers and bills and papers.  I hate papers.  I loathe how bad I am at managing papers. I have worked on it will all my mind and might, but it is a deficiency in my character, apparently.  I'm tired of talking about that.

Wednesday:  (Errands Day/Evening Prayer Groups Childcare)
Extra lessons today for my teen students who will be gone this week for Youth Challenge.  I hope to pick up my sad, dead computer from the repair shop.  Then, I'm pretty sure it's time to empty out the back of our van, which is completely packed for an embarrassing amount of time with things that need taken to goodwill, returned to the store, or dropped off at various locations around town.  David loves it when I have the backs of our vehicles packed with random errands yet undone.  It draws us together in unity.  I just lied.

Thursday:  Teaching Day
I am enjoying how much I am enjoying teaching these days.  It is just a nice feeling to love your job.   These kids are beautiful.  And I love them - even when they don't practice.  (Kids are so busy these days...for real!)
Thursday Kayla leaves on the bus with her friends for Youth Challenge.  I love how much she loves Youth Challenge.  She is an extreme introvert, and usually really, really happy to avoid crowds.  But she loves Youth Challenge. So that's saying something.

Friday:  (Church Prep Day/Homeschooling Day)
I've had a hankering to take the kids to the children's museum, but it will have to wait.  This Friday I need to finalize my plans for a very busy week to follow.  We need an acceptable trunk-or-treat design for Monday night, and I have lots of things to finalize for our November MOPS group on Tuesday morning.  David will be gone for all of the above, so there will be very little margin for error in my strategy and planning next week.  Must. Work. Ahead.

Saturday:  (Cleaning & family day)
A baby shower
A Quinsinera
My own cleaning/laundry
Family Cleaning Hour
Finalize Sunday food & clothes prep
Prepare Youth House for visiting Spanish minister, if necessary.
(Where is the family day part going to happen?)  Maybe just sitting around the fire on the porch in the evening for a bit.

:: Love this Quote! ::
For years and years, I have loved this quote.  But it is speaking to me in newer and deeper ways these days.  {blog post to come, perhaps?}

Image result for cherish your visions, cherish your ideals

:: A Picture from our world::

We took a quick road trip for family day and enjoyed the autumn awesomeness in Brown County.  Every day I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for these beautiful people I get to do life with.

Four Life Dreams

September, 2016

It's been nearly a month since I have written here.

It's not because I've been busy.  I mean..Make no mistake - I've been busy!  But that's not why I've been quiet.

My mind and heart are full.  Pulsing and thinking and growing and breaking and crying and aching and catching glimmers of hope and wondering and planning...all the things.

So here's the deal.  I can't talk about a lot of it.  No - we're not resigning our church and moving to Africa. We're not adopting or having a new baby.   It's much bigger than that.

* whisper*  I actually think it may be a midlife crisis.

And as much as I love words, I feel like there is almost no way to say what is happening to me.  Well.  Not safely, at least.

I turned 39 last month.   And I'm totally not okay with it.  It gives me one measly year to re-evaluate the first half of my life and make course corrections.  I know some people live past 80, but frankly, with my family history that isn't likely for me.  Cancer.  Heart disease.  Cancer.  Diabetes.  Strokes.  Drowning.  Disease. Stress.  Falling off of buildings.  Overwork. Car wrecks.  Lots of car wrecks.  Cancer.

Did I mention cancer?  Guess I did.  But it's a real thing to me.  And I had a scary biopsy just a few weeks after my 5th child was born and right after my mom had cancer removed.  So like I said, 40 is probably a good estimate of half.

The journey to this year is so full and private and frankly painful, that I am not free to share.  But as I claw my way towards the light, I am finding some clarity. And that's what I came here to share with you.

I've been thinking a lot about dreams.  A lot.  I'm a dreamer.  The worst kind.  A romantic, even.  And life is not kind to dreamers and romantics.  Life likes pragmatics much better.  They are never disappointed, because they expect the worst and have a plan in place.  So I have gravitated more towards the pragmatic side of things.  Less singing and dancing and imagining far-off places.  More working.  More reality.  Less dreaming.  And more dishes.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not mad at the dishes.  Well. Maybe just a little.

I'm just saying that somewhere along the way I have lost pieces of myself.  Huge, gaping pieces.  And the saddest thing is, I think maybe they were the really beautiful pieces of me.  I think there are very few people who really, truly know me and my pieces.  And those few are and forever will be precious to me.

But I've been trying to remember who I am.  Me - without the forgotten degrees and big house and busy church and 6 kids and Dr. husband.  The me who used to randomly burst into song.  (Like... always. And loudly, I'm afraid.  I'm actually so embarrassed at how obnoxious my dreamy self was.)

Our engagement - I was 23, he was 21

As I re-evaluate where I am and who I've become, I am drawn to something different.  Something radical.  Something - I fear - utterly impossible.   I have journaled and meditated and written and listed and categorized and cried and thought and dreamed.  There are so many dreams still buried inside of me.  Most of them impractical.  (Anybody know how to get an audition appointment to sing for a Disney Movie?)  And I have yet to do the work of unpacking those stuffed dreams and feeling them, looking at them with deep care and respect and making hard decisions about them.

But my BASICS have become crystal clear to me.  I have always kind of reverted back to the whole


thing.  That's all well and good, but it doesn't necessarily equal wholeness.  I know it's supposed to, but I'm tired of "supposed to."  Real tired of it.  And things need a little shaking up.  I'm stuck.  And it's not working for me.  I mean.  Lots of things are working.  I love my home systems and my priorities for my kids and many of the things I choose to do for others.  But honestly,  I haven't taken very good care of my very own heart. And it finally has reached the point that I cannot stuff it any longer.

This list will most likely be quite underwhelming for those who have had the unfortunate experience of slogging this far through my mid-life crisis blabbers.  They are fairly common goals and desires.  But I can assure you, they are not common to me.  They are precious and dear to me.  And hard.  Like I said - I'm afraid some of them are nearly impossible.


They are basic.  And utterly rare.  And simple.  And deep and passionate. And really, truly - not simple at all. My kids and husband and church are not necessarily listed in here.  Because this is my feeble and confused attempt at self care.  Please don't think that means I don't care about the others in my life or that they are of less priority.  (Why am I caring what you think? If you think that about me, you don't know me at all anyway! That's the kind of thing I'm just completely weary of.  I officially don't care what you think of me or this post. That was a lie.)   This is just a different thing. I guess you'd have to be there with me to understand.

I'm done vomiting words and ready to go to snuggle with my 3 year old and sleep until my sick one year old wakes up crying and coughing.  I may or may not ever return to explain my 4 dreams.  But I am tucking them in gently and taking them with me.

I hope you do the same with yours.

New Photobook

I've been tossing around some plans for how to get all of our pictures into some kind of printed format.  I thought I wanted to do photobooks of everything, and I finally got around to ordering another photo book.  I used the Zno $5.00 facebook offer.  Plus $5.00 shipping, so this gorgeous photo book with thick, stiff layflat pages is coming to me soon for a steal.

 I'm pretty proud of myself for getting one done.  I have two more in the works with two different companies. I am experimenting to see which is my favorite.  I think I've decided to only do digital photobooks of our travels and trips.  And to print 4x6 prints of the rest of our year.  My plan is to try to fit one year in a 500-page photo album.  We'll see how that goes!

Special thanks to Joanna Brown Photography for taking our family pictures last fall!

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