Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grieving from a distance.

(The following post is nothing more than a rambling of the thoughts that having been rolling around in my mind as I try to decipher my own emotions in the midst of such a tragic event.)

I've been walking around in a 'funk' of sorts for the last day and a half and I know that I am not alone here.  In fact, I don't know many people who are not grieving with and for the community of Newtown, CT after the sickening events that happened there on Friday morning.

Josh and I were heading to do a few more errands as we prepare for Christmas when I heard about the shooting for the first time.  It wasn't until about 2 hours later as we were finished shopping and about to be seated for lunch when I read the news that 18 kindergarten aged kids were shot and killed.  I felt sick to my stomach and immediately wanted to get home to get my kids.  I knew they were fine, but I wanted to see them...especially my own kindergartner.

As more and more news and details were uncovered and released the more and more sick I felt.  I heard and read stories of how the events unfolded and can't help but picture this in our own elementary school.  I read about the shooters entrance into the school and how the office administrators came out to see what was going on, only to be shot instantly.  When I read that I naturally pictured that event happening at the entrance of our school, a school in a small town and very similar community.   It was an eerie feeling for me when I was in the school Saturday morning for basketball games.  Even though I know this didn't happen here, it was a strange feeling because of how I pictured things in my mind.  I imagine this to be the same for many parents of elementary school kids all over the country.

This tragedy has hit close to home for SO many.  All I know is that I have had no words for the way I have felt.  While I am drawn to reading the stories that have been written about the heroic measures of the staff and responders that day, I really do not want to have any more details of this day in my mind.  My reaction to it all is to try to dismiss try to forget it.   This did NOT happen to my community, my school, my kids.  We are safe.  I still get to tuck my kids into bed tonight, I still get to see their sweet faces in the morning,  I still get to see the joy in their faces on Christmas morning.

But the problem with reminding myself that my family is ok is that I then feel guilty for being able to put these thoughts behind me.  I feel sad that I am able to do this when there are people who are thinking about their SIX year old children being shot and killed and who are NOT able to just move on.  People who's lives have changed in an instant.  It just doesn't seem fair that I am able to put it aside..just because the feeling of grief is uncomfortable.

Where is the balance here?  I have no idea.  I do know that the feeling of intense pain and sadness for the families and community will fade...for everyone.

I only remember having this feeling of intense sadness for someone else one other time as a close friend suffered the loss of her baby boy who was born still after carrying him to full term.  I remember this feeling well and as much as I would NEVER wish these tragic losses to happen to myself, I did sometimes have that feeling that I would have taken this pain on myself rather than having to see a friend go through it.  During this time I was also grieving from a distance as this friend lived hours away from me.   There was nothing I could do and just like now, because of distance, I was able to just put the thoughts and the grief into the back of my mind and move on with my day, only to feel that guilt of how unfair it was that I was able to do that while my friend simply could not and would not for many years.

I suppose the answer here  might be that we just need to let ourselves grieve and be sad.  We need to take these times and use them to appreciate our loved ones and our time with them.  The sharpness of this pain will start to dull...and I don't think we need to feel guilty as this happens.  I don't think any of us will forget what happened that day...even when the sadness is not as intense.

As we all send our kids back to school tomorrow I am CERTAIN that we will send them with a different feeling.  I know (and have believed this for a long time) that our days are numbered and that every day that we have in this life is a gift...but tragedies like this remind us of this truth even more.   I will NOT send my kids out the door in fear, but in faith that God has a plan for their lives and my life.  I remind the kids of this as well.

I love being able to live with this hope and security.  I honestly wonder how anyone could live through something like this (even from a distance) without being able to rest on the hope and promise that God is in control...even in tragedy.   Where can we find hope elsewhere?

I will be praying for our school tomorrow as I am sure it will be a difficult day for the staff especially.  I will be thinking specifically of Owen's kindergarten teacher who will have to enter the day facing a classroom full of wide eyed kindergartners, many will not be aware of the events of the week prior.  I'm sure that this look of innocence on the students will be the hardest part of the elementary school teachers all over the country as they imagine that same look of innocence on the students in CT at 9:30am on Friday the 14th...before they were faced with absolute evil right before their eyes.  I will pray that this week before Christmas will be enjoyed by staff and students as usual as we appreciate each day with a different outlook.

I will be enjoying the Christmas season with my family with joy, but not without thinking of the families that won't get that opportunity.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's Christmas time!

I think I've said it before, but Christmas gets more and more fun each year!  It is fun to see the kids looking forward to and expecting the different traditions that our family has started (or continued).  Each year that they get older it gets more fun.

This is the second year that we have gone with the borrowed tradition of a theme for the gifts for the kids.  I stole this idea from my SIL who blogged about it HERE .  This has transformed how we 'do' a good way.  If you read the blog you can see her take on it..but I will explain here too.

We give gifts according to this poem:

Something to Eat
Something to Read
Something to Play With
Something you need

And in addition to this a Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh gift..

Gold - Something Valuable
Frankincense - Something to do with the family
Myrrh - another need

We have always had the tradition of a Christmas Eve gift that for the last 12 years have been pajamas...and that is what the kids expect, although we always tell them that they might be surprised one of these times!

With that...each kid gets 8 gifts under the tree.  When you multiply this by 5 kids it can seem like a lot, and really, it is.  But..some of these categories do not require a lot of money.  For example, "To Eat"....last year this looked like a can of Pringles for one, or a box of Swiss Rolls for another.  This category can cost less than $10 in total for all the kids.  And let me tell you..they are never disappointed in this category!  When do they ever get an entire box of Ring Dings to themselves??!!  This is an exciting moment for them!

This year we added one more component that was VERY fun for the kids.  They are always asking to buy gifts for each other but at this point in life don't have a whole lot of money of their own.  Thanks to the suggestion from my friend Renee, we implemented a "Secret Sibling" gift.  Instead of this being an additional present, the secret sibling gift fell into the "something to play with" that we were going to have to fill ourselves anyway.  So...they secretly drew names out of a hat, and as far as I know have been very secretive about it!  They had a few days to think about something they wanted to get and then each had some time to sit with Daddy on the couch with the computer (this is how we do all of our shopping!) and pick out something for their 'secret sibling'.  They have had much fun with this and are all anxiously awaiting the moment when they get to watch each other open the gifts!

To top off the fun of Christmas this year...we had ALL of the gifts purchased, delivered, wrapped and put under the tree by December 4th!  Those of you who know us know that we have spent MANY years doing ALL of our shopping on Christmas Eve...and wrapping until all hours of the night just in time for a few hours of sleep before all the opening!

Having this gift giving theme is very helpful.  I make a chart and fill in each category and Josh and I plan a few evenings on the Couch with some Christmas music in front of the Christmas tree after the kids go to bed and we shop.  We shop without any crowds, crying kids etc, etc.  I know that this takes the fun away for some, but NOT for us!  We LOVE doing it this way.  Besides stocking stuffers, we have done our entire Christmas shopping online.

The kids spend part of each day looking over their gifts under the tree.  Each kid has their own wrapping paper and each gift is labeled with what category it is.  Luke is pretty sure he's getting Pringles again....but you never know, I might have stuffed a Pringles can full of gum!  Jessalyn is hopefully for the Hunger Games series....but really, it could be ANYTHING in that box:)

Nana (my mom) usually goes all out buying the kids a gazillion gifts that she has to shop for and wrap..something that she has a love/hate relationship with!  This year, we talked her into just going 'in on' the "Gold" category so that it limits the amount of stuff the kids are getting and so that she can 'invest' towards something bigger and more valuable that the kids really want.  This works out perfectly for all of us as she doesn't have to shop for a bunch of individual gifts, or wrap them...and the kids don't end up with tons and tons of toys that they love for a few minutes (maybe days) and then dismiss.  So even with Nana's contribution, the kids still only open 8 gifts (including Christmas Eve).  The gold gifts are wrapped in some shiny gold wrapping paper, but are not put under the tree yet.  We figure we will let their imaginations run wild here.

This 'system' is one that I like because the kids know, for the most part, what to expect.  This also is good for us as WE know just what to expect and can plan throughout the year and be ready for Christmas financially.

I will end with some random pictures that I've taken this Christmas season...

This is something I made for my facebook cover photo..

Sweet sleepy Tru

Tree decorating...the day after Thanksgiving..

Owen's turn this year to put the (sad looking) Angel on the tree.  The kids take turns each year.

My lovely daughter:)