Let's Look on the Bright Side

Do you see what I see? Is this really a photo of two beautifully behaved, perfectly dressed, delightfully happy children? Oh my friends, how looks can be deceiving. The reality is that Sheridan screamed, cried and clung to me for the first 18 minutes of our 20 minute photo shoot. Her cheeks are rosy only because she was still recovering from a red-faced temper tantrum. Caed’s pants were soaked up to the knees, thanks to the pouring rain and a huge puddle outside of Sears--which we went through twice because the first entrance we tried was locked. And to top it all off, after braving the elements and temperaments, I discovered that I could not use this photo in my Christmas card, as the CD advertised for $9.99 was really $119.99 unless you bought a bajillion other poses. And since this was the only decent picture that came out of our 20 minutes of posing misery, let’s just say Dani was not the only one devoid of holiday cheer that morning.

This year I was half tempted to send out the picture below as a statement of revolt against the holiday tradition of feigning perfection in the name of Christmas cheer.

You all know what I’m talking about, right? We dress up the kids in their best holiday clothes, and try to capture a blink-free snapshot of happiness--a photo that we can mass produce and mail as evidence that “it’s a wonderful life”. But the reality is that life is varying degrees of difficult. Not altogether different from a photo shoot with two unruly preschoolers.
Sometimes we lose the job we love, or keep the job we hate. Sometimes our spouse moves out, and sometimes our grown children move back in. Our children aren’t always healthy, and our marriages aren’t always happy. We might lose sleep because our teenager is giving us the silent treatment, or because our newborn is doing the opposite. And the last thing we all want to do is read a holiday card from our college buddy that brags on and on about how perfect life is.
So for those of you who have read enough about Sally, the third grader who just finished AP algebra, or Billy, the 5 year old MVP of the world pre-K soccer traveling team, this post is for you.

This is for those of us who know that life is more like a tangled string of not-yet-blinking holiday lights than a box of Peppermint Bark. Namely, it’s hard work, and not something you can polish off in one sitting.

It’s spending most of the night trying to get your baby back to sleep, which finally happens 20 minutes before your toddler wakes up for the day. It’s working long hours at the office, the factory or the hospital to make ends meet. It’s battling a chronic illness. It’s spending months deployed in Iraq, and missing your family in every moment. It’s not having a family to miss. It’s reading this inappropriately depressing post and wondering when I’ll ever get to the point.

But like that tangled string of lights, it’s not all bad. Because if you work at it long enough, you discover little flashes of light, even moments of outrageous joy. Your baby’s first smile. A safe return home from Iraq. A hug and a home-made card from your daughter. A year of remission. A love renewed.

And it is these little bursts of brightness that make the tedious untangling more than worthwhile.

So I’ve made a list--or a string, if you will--of some of the lighted moments in our lives this year, from the blinding bright blessings to little flickers of fun. Here’s a sampling from our string of lights:
1) Snowflakes from the first snow of the season, resting on Dani’s eyelashes.
2) Caed & Dani’s sand-speckled toes and sun-kissed cheeks, evidence of a morning at the beach.
3) A bike ride with the kids during a golden weekend.
4) Post-call sleep in a room with new black-out shades (ironic that this is a “lighted moment”, right?)
5) Riding the log-flume ride at Funtown-Splashtown
6) Building a fort that spanned an entire room (this one is going on now, as I’m letting the kids play unsupervised in an attempt to finish writing).
7) Lots of great visits with friends and family from afar, like this one, this one, this one and this one.
8) Playing “tickle monster” with Dad.
9) Hearing Caed pray, “Thank you Jesus for all the great t’ings I have. Thank you for Funtown Splashtown. Thank you for my family.” (I’m going to have to assume that the thank you list was not in order of priority.)
10) Dance parties.

So don’t leave me one bulb shy of a full string....Please add a comment to continue the list of lighted moments with one (or several) of your own bright spots of 2008!

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