Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where did Baby Jesus go?

I went to grad school for a divinity degree for various reasons I graduated with a theology one instead, but every now and again I have a mini-sermon stirring around in my head, and this is one is the most recent.

A couple of years ago for Lydia’s first Christmas we bought the ever so popular Little People Nativity set.  Each year Lydia, of course, has played with it more. It is safe to say that this year it has been a hit. My first few days back at work, Lydia would go to the door with my mom to wave goodbye and she would insist that I take Baby Jesus with me. Who am I to argue with a 2 year old saying goodbye to her mom who has been home for 6 months? So I would thank her for Baby Jesus and he would ride with me tucked safely in the space on my car door. Every day I would come home and put Jesus back on the shelf.

About a week ago, I notice that the whole holy family was missing from the plastic fisher price manager and I started to look for them and I found them in her backpack that we took over to Gram’s and Grandpa’s last week. So I pulled them out and once again placed them back on the shelf.
This past Sunday we were getting ready for church and I notice that Lydia was gathering the holy family, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, can't leave him behind. I grabbed one of her little purses so she could store her little people and off to church are our little family went. Later we got home, I placed them back on the shelf. This morning Mary and Baby Jesus are missing, again.
All of this, putting Baby Jesus back on the shelf stuff has been bouncing around in my little theological brain. Doesn’t Lydia have a better grasp of this whole thing than I do? Likely. Aren’t we supposed to be taking Baby Jesus with us everywhere we go?  

The concept of faith like a child rings loudly to me but more so the concept of the greater story. The story that starts at the manager (even though so many nativity scenes are biblically inaccurate containing both a shepherd with animals {Luke} and wisemen with gifts {Matthew} ; this is a whole other issue.) There is a reason that there are no more stories about Jesus’ childhood in the Bible (except that one when he is 12) likely because his real mark society (the world) was hitting the streets and caring for the sick, the old, and the disenfranchised. That’s the good part. The part with Jesus giving to the least, and reminding those of us that have plenty to do so as well. It’s a good thing to have a little Baby Jesus with you on the go all the time, just for that reminder.

As I mentioned before, Mary and Baby Jesus are missing at the moment from our manager, surely they are helping out a Catholic brother somewhere, reminding them of the spirit of the season as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thank You Cabbage Patch

During almost everyone's childhood there is a toy phenomenon. The toy that comes out that everyone must have. Perhaps it is my complete and total lack of competitiveness but there are two things I remember ever wanting, one was a pair of Guess jeans in the eighth grade which was circa 1989. They were really expensive, clocking in at about $50. At the time that was insane. My grandmother who worked as a seamstress at Maas Brothers downtown St. Pete (which has been turned partly into a theater, hamburger joint and a tattoo shop after being a museum for while.) Mass Brothers was an iconic part of the downtown, which doesn't add anything to the story other than a trivial detail. My grandmother had a mighty nice discount, so for Christmas she got me the jeans. I put those jeans on and wore them only a handful of times but not nearly as much as I should have. It turns out they weren't too comfortable and they were likely designed for people that didn't have any junk in their trunks. Plus the following year grunge hit the street and tight jeans were out.

The other thing I really remember wanting was a Cabbage Patch doll. This was only a few years earlier than the jeans which goes to show how quickly a child becomes an adolescent, but it was about 1984. The dolls were also expensive considering the era, I believe they sold for close to $30. My parents thought this was outrageous. They both worked hard, sometimes working each two jobs. They weren't slouches and they weren't nuts.

During that holiday the grocer, Kash n' Karry that was across town at the time, had a raffle for a Cabbage Patch doll. I won. I couldn't believe it. I was going to have a Cabbage Patch dolls. My mom was amazed at my luck and to be honest so was I. My dad and I arrived at the store to pick up my prize. It was a red-headed Cabbage Patch doll with pigtails. I jumped up and down. I cheered with glee. I hugged it and loved it.

A few weeks later it was Christmas and I got to have another Cabbage Patch thanks to my aunt who gave me one for Christmas. When I unwrapped the box unknowingly and saw that the doll was exactly the same. It was another red-headed pig-tailed doll. I cried. I was so disappointed. I wanted to have two different dolls. I wanted it to appear that I had variety. It was truly one of the only moments I remember of my childhood where I wanted to appear as if we had more (the other being those jeans.) If I had two Cabbage Patch dolls that would be something. Even now, if I try I am not sure why I thought it would be so difficult to explain why these dolls were the same. The dolls, of course, had different names and all. My poor Aunt who always managed to get me things that were cool and my poor embarrassed parents were stunned at my reaction since I had never behaved liked this before. They told me to thank my aunt. I couldn't stop crying. My mom eventually told me that it wasn't the baby's (the doll) fault that her father had red hair.

I got over it. I played with those dolls and loved them. Sat them down in my pretend classroom and graded their pretend papers. I fed them and put them to bed. I made up stories about them being twins that were separated at birth and joyfully reunited. I grew up and had children with a red bearded man and my parents had saved these dolls. We washed and dressed them. Now each one of my daughters gets to have one of my childhood dolls and since they are exactly the same, they can't even fight about them. It 's actually perfect.

My mom got Lydia a Cabbage Patch doll the last two Christmases. The newborn kind which are age appropriate. I thought it would be fun to get Vivian one, since the one Lydia has is so cute. They don't make the one she has with the giggle anymore. So I went to Ebay. In my search, I found Cabbage Patch Sisters. There is an older sister and a little baby sister. My 12 year old heart almost busted. I want to give these dolls to my girls, especially this year. It would be perfect for them to have the sister dolls big. So the bidding has begun. I hope I have the same dumb luck that I had 28 years ago with a much deeper understanding of thankfulness. Even though this is different, the emotions are interwined together and I want to be sure to deeply thankful this time, even if I don't win these dolls.

Thanksgiving Foods: The Sequels

Every year we make a crap ton of food and every year we have a crap ton of leftovers. This year I wanted to be sure to reinvent our leftovers so we wouldn't grow tired of them and we would use a vast majority of them. Of course the first post night we ate simply left overs, the second turkey sandwiches with nice Italian bread. After that the creative juices were a flowing.

 My mom and grandpa have been using my homemade cranberry sauce as a jelly. So on toast, bagels, sometimes they add a little butter or cream cheese. My mom even used some as a topping for a bowl of ice cream.

My dad took the shredded turkey that is peeled off the bird and turned them into croquettes. I made a very tasty turkey, vegetable and orzo soup in the crock pot. My hubs which is not a huge soup fan loved it. And he bragged so much about it that several co-workers of his asked for the recipe. Here is the recipe I created:

16 oz Organic Chicken Stock (next year I will make my own)
can of diced unsalted tomatoes rinsed
2 cloves of garlic
half of a large onion
green peppers
salt and pepper
basil leaf

I threw it all in there. I wish I had more specific amounts to share but I don't really roll that way. It was on high for 4 hours and then I clicked it down to low for another 2. Once we were ready to eat I cooked the orzo separately and added it to the soup. Awesome. Seriously my mom even loved it!

Often I make chicken enchiladas with the extras of a rotisserie chicken the next day but this time I had turkey. The key to enchiladas to me is cilantro which I was out of. So I rolled up turkey in my tortillas with cooked onions, garlic, and tomatoes and placed them into a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish. Since I was out of cilantro I squeezed a fresh lime over the entire pan until I could see some liquid in the between the crevasses of the rolls. I poured a can of red enchilada sauce  and covered it with shredded cheese.I put it in the over for 30 minutes at 350. I served it with sour cream and salsa. Always easy and always tasty.

I had one last big idea this time but sadly didn't get to try it out because the leftover window closed in on us rather quickly. There are empanada shells that are sold in the freezer section which are bakable which is better for you than fried. I thought it would be great to make some with turkey, mashed potatoes and peas, sort of like a perogie and others with sweet potatoes and turkey. I was going to experiment a bit but didn't get a chance. Next time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Reflection on Time

The moment you have a child everyone tells you how fast it goes. People wake up and suddenly their children are graduating from high school, getting married or having their own children. They are stunned by how time has flown by and a sadness sets in. It is never said but understood that the person has missed it. The high speed train of life just pushed them off on the almost last stop and it went by without even a flinch. This makes me feel anxious, almost a feeling of panic.. Matter of fact, my armpits are a little sweaty just contemplating this phenomenon.

However, consider this, when you have to prepare and deliver a speech in front of a large group, time stands still. When you trip at the mall, on stage, getting into the pew on Sunday morning time freezes. Try standing on one foot and patting your head for 30 seconds without looking at a clock, chances are you will glance before the half minute has passed. Surely I am not the only one that juggles more than one thing during the day, at work I put in my lunch in the microwave in the faculty lounge for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I hit start go to the rest room to pee, wash my hands, glance at myself in the mirror, return to the lounge, check my faculty mailbox and more often than not my food is still not ready. At home, I can change a diaper, find Dora, fill a sippy cup, put the wash in the dryer and grab the mail as the beeping alerts me of readiness of my meal. Time can stand still if we want it to.

In the spirit of taking time by its reins and enjoying my daughters, I intentionally take a deep breath and watch them slowly. I take in the squeal from Lydia and the babbling from Vivi. I cuddle with them often and make sure to take a whiff of their baby scents (though the toddler isn't always so sweet.) The other night we put on Christmas music while we decorated the tree and we danced in our big empty living room, Eliot with Lydia and I with Vivian cheek to cheek. Tears of joy rolled down my face as it dawned on me that moments such as those are unique. We may never have that again. Partly because eventually I would like to get furniture for that room, but partly because it will become harder to carry them in our arms. But I didn't miss it. I have stored the moment in heart forever.

Life will go by. It's part of the point. I am sure in 20 years I too will wonder where time has gone, but I refuse to live a life being enveloped by a fast paced society. I want every day to stop and smell the roses; to notice what my children have learned and spend time in our home together nurturing them every single day despite the to-do list, and despite the social commitments. I am devoted to living a slower life; to "sucking the marrow out of life" as Thoreau would demand, to enjoying time instead of being frustrated with time. I am thankful for the time we do have each and everyday. I will suck the marrow and store every drop in my heart all the days of life.