Happy Holidays!

I had high hopes that with some time off from work and the arrival of Christmas, I’d have plenty of motivation and material to get some writing done over the holidays. Time has proven elusive, however, with an assortment of activities and family outings, so it might end up less than I’d hoped. In the meantime, here’s some excerpts from our family Christmas letter that sums up a lot of what’s happened in 2009 with my three boys.

The enormous cardboard box, its sides worn and tattered from nine years of annual packing and unpacking, completely blocked my view. I slowly stepped upwards, my arms straining to hold the box together. Its seams threatened to burst apart at any moment, sending its contents and carrier tumbling down the basement stairs. I emerged triumphant from the staircase and gingerly set the box down in the family room. There was hardly room to move amongst everything that I’d pulled from hibernation in the dark corners of our furnace room for the seasonal unveiling. From the looks of things, we’d have enough wreaths, ornaments, candles and holly to cover every square inch of our dwelling and then some. Just in time to haul it all back downstairs again in only a few weeks. Let the Christmas celebration begin!

My hand rested on a black charred corner flap of that last big box. “11-C” written in thick marker was barely visible and I remembered how it had caught fire in our apartment the first year Mommy and I were married. We’d been unpacking decorations for the first time and the box was knocked a bit too close to a newly lit Christmas candle. I opened a few boxes and began removing some decorations, each bringing back a different memory from our growing family’s seasons past. Colorful stockings with our names on them – once just a lonely pair – now had grown to five as our boys came along over the years. Tiny ornaments of sleds, bears and bells emblazoned with personalized tag lines of First Christmas for our marriage and each of the kids’ births. My how the time has flown.

2009 was a big year in our house as we welcomed the blessing of a new child. The baby was born in March, weighing 7 lbs 1 oz and 20 ½ inches long. Nine months later, he’s grown into a very active little boy. He’s quickly learned to crawl, stand up, clap, and jabber on with sounds like “Dada” and “Baba.” Thankfully, he’s been a very good sleeper and eater and is generally content and happy. He loves watching his big brothers and is desperate to begin running and playing with them around the house and yard. For their part, the two oldest have been excellent big brothers, quickly learning how to aid Mommy by fetching diapers and entertaining the baby when she leaves the room. Just yesterday he stood up by himself in the middle of the living room and has hinted at walking by inching forward with a step. We’re convinced that he’s going to be running any day now, consequently making our lives significantly more challenging (I mean rewarding).

#2 turned four in March with a festive Star Wars birthday party that Daddy talked Mommy into letting him organize since she was nine months pregnant. This fall, he continued with preschool at the church down the street three mornings a week and just wrapped up a few months of Taekwondo classes on Fridays which he loved. He earned his white belt with one stripe, and now regularly kicks Daddy in the shins with great force. Just this week, we were surprised to learn that he’d been selected to follow in his brother’s footsteps and play the role of Joseph in the preschool Christmas program. Unfazed by the pressure of stardom, he pulled the wooden donkey down the aisle with nerves of steel and confidently asked the auditorium if there was any room in the inn. Sadly, there still was not, so he and Mary retired to the stable.

Our oldest turned six this November with a raucous Halloween birthday party and made the jump to spending his afternoons at kindergarten in September. He charged right onto the bus with great excitement from the very first day and hasn’t looked back. After several months, he’s counting by tens to 100, learning his “wall words” and identifying his letters and sounds to start reading. All the while, trying to keep his “strike” warnings during class to a minimum. In the spring, Daddy coached his Cardinals t-ball team. Other than having Daddy plunk him with a pitch during his last at-bat of the season, fun was had all around. Father and son participated in town soccer in the fall, and my boy scored two goals and a handful of exciting saves when goalie.

Mommy has spent the year remembering the joys and challenges of living with a baby (and a preschooler and a kindergartener!). She’s especially thankful that the baby sleeps through the night now (as is Daddy). When she’s not juggling competing schedules of morning preschool and afternoon bus pickup and drop-offs, she’s attending Tuesday morning women’s Bible study, running our church’s preschool Sunday School program and serving as a kindergarten class mom. Mommy and the kids joined the neighborhood pool this summer and both boys made great strides learning how to swim. Daddy continues to work from home several days a week and tries to keep travel to a minimum for the family’s sake. He started the year refinishing a 100-year-old antique wooden wall phone from Mommy’s grandma’s Virginia farmhouse and mounting it in our family room. He was thrilled to visit the new Yankee Stadium four times this year, including a memorable time taking our oldest to a game in September and World Series Game 2 in October as the Yanks won their 27th World Championship. He and the older boys went camping twice this summer, made a fun music video together over Thanksgiving weekend and climbed to the top of a lighthouse during our vacation in the Outer Banks in July.

Somehow the years when a baby lives in our house makes it easier for me to imagine the wonder and joy that is the Christmas miracle. While I can tell you firsthand that every baby is a miracle in itself, at Christmas, we’re reminded of Christ’s dramatic but understated descent into our world. As I read to my kindergarten Sunday School class, our memory verse this month is “God has given a Son to us” (Isaiah 9:6). This short truth can seem so basic, so obvious. But in our house, where the boys spend hours reveling in adventures with superheroes, Star Wars and fire-breathing dragons, we’ve found that it works well to explain to them that the miracle of Christmas isn’t just pretend with a supersuit or secret powers. It really happened. And that’s pretty cool.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours, and a Happy 2010.

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