Motherlode’s Greatest Hits in 2008

We can’t believe it’s already the end of the year, and we’re really blown away that the website is now eight months old. Since our May 1st launch (remember our online invitation?) we’ve been bringing you new stories daily, and the following were some of the most popular posts this year. Just click on the title to read an article.

From our families to yours, here’s wishing you a haparty-hat.jpgppy, healthy New Year.

Advice: “Mind Your Mama” on yelling

Beauty Buzz: “Ask Amy” gives list of the best inexpensive make-up

Devotion in Motion: “My Friend Eric”

Fashion: “My Closet Makeover”

Hair: “Help Me Rhonda” on cheating on your stylist

Healthy Mama: “Straight from the OB” with Dr. Chris Johnson

Mealtime Mama: “Mike’s Rosemary Chicken and Turkey Cutlets with Dijon Coconut Sauce”

Music Mama: “Great Songs from Great Chick Flicks”

No Place Like Home: “How to Avoid the Top 5 Decorating Mistakes”

What We’re Reading: “The Truth About Cheating”

The Rockwood Files: “Letter to My Daughter”

All Akimbo: “The Ultrasound Appointment!

Life With Ladybug: “A Mother of a Meltdown”

Mommy in Progress: Jacqueline’s first post about first-time pregnancy

Waiting for Shlomo: “This Thing Called Hope”

Giveaways! There were some great giveaways in 2008.

Our first was the Mother’s Day Getaway Giveaway, a wonderful spa package that went to Amy Stearns for her riveting story, “Two Kids and a Happy Meal”. It’s a must-read. The runners-up in the essay contest were Kassie (“Diary of a Birth”), Darlene (“The Story of Emily: Our Very Own Miracle”), and Lauren (“Raising Drew’s Baby”).

We’ve also given away several pieces of gorgeous jewelry from Underwood’s as well as some great gifts for party girls at Fast Lane and Bath Junkie. And who could forget the recent portrait giveaway that garnered a huge response from nwaMotherlode mamas.

We already have several awesome giveaways lined up for 2009, so stay tuned!

Healthy Mama: Common sleep issues in children, decoded

We had so many questions for Dr. Fomin, we had to stretch them out over two days. Herevideo13.jpg are his answers to our most pressing sleep questions:

There are several different reasons that might prompt a visit to a sleep specialist like Dr. Fomin. In this video podcast (click the icon on the right), Dr. Fomin reviews some of the red flags that signal you may need to see a doctor about sleep issues.

Q: Is there a general age for when a baby should start sleeping in his own crib?

A: No, there is no such age. The answer to this question pretty much parallels the first part of my answer to the question from yesterday about how to get a child to sleep on his own. However, there are several important safe sleep practices for infants that I would like to mention here:

  • Sleeping in the parental bed may pose a risk of accidental suffocation.
  • Crib mattresses should provide a firm sleeping surface, fit tightly in the crib, and no pillows or comforters should be used.
  • The distance between crib slats should be no greater than 2.5 inches.
  • Sleeping on the back reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Remember “back to sleep” as a reminder.
  • Make sure the baby’s face and head stay uncovered and clear of blankets and other coverings during sleep.
  • If a blanket is used, make sure the baby is placed “feet to foot” (feet at the bottom of the crib, blanket no higher than chest level, blanket tucked in around mattress) in the crib.
  • Create a “smoke-free zone” around the baby.
  • Avoid overheating during sleep and maintain the baby’s bedroom at a temperature comfortable for an average adult.
  • Remove all mobiles and hanging crib toys by about 5 months of age, when the baby begins to pull up in the crib.
  • Remove crib bumpers by about 12 months, when the baby can begin to climb.

Q: What are the guidelines for the number of hours of sleep a child needs at night (by age group)?

A: What is “enough” sleep? The simple answer to this question is “the amount of sleep that a child needs to feel well rested.” Parents are generally quite good at recognizing the signs that indicate that their child is “overtired” (whininess, moodiness, short fuse, acting “hyper”) at the end of the day, but may heed help in recognizing that more subtle variation of these signs may be evidence of chronically inadequate sleep. The numbers given below for average sleep duration at different ages represent the best information that is currently available. There are individual variations in both sleep needs and tolerance levels to inadequate sleep, within certain basic parameters of human sleep needs. If parents are uncertain as to the amount of sleep their child needs to function optimally, monitoring sleep amounts and mood while allowing a child to sleep until he or she awakens spontaneously in the morning for at least 3 days (during vacation, for example) may help in sorting out this issue. Some general guidelines:

  • Newborns (0 to 2 months): 16 to 20 hours per 24 hours, may be higher in premature babies.
  • Infants (2 to 12 months): 9-12 hours at night; 1 to 4 naps daily for a total nap time of 2 to 4.5 hours a day
  • Toddlers (12 months to 3 years): 12-13 hours of total sleep per 24 hours. Naps decrease from two naps to one at average age of 18 months.
  • Pre-schoolers (3-5 years): 11-12 hours. Naps decrease from one nap to none.
  • School-aged children (6-12 years): 10 to 11 hours
  • Teens (12-18 years): 9-9.5 hours

Q: How long have you lived in NWA? What brought you to the area?

A: We moved to Rogers in July 2008 after I’ve retired from the US Army. My last duty station was in Germany. Until I came to interview for my job at Mercy, I have never been to Arkansas. We came here because I really liked the opportunity to work at the Mercy Medical Center. I liked the new hospital, the proximity of the physicians’ offices to the hospital, the caring attitude of the people who work at Mercy. The shortage of neurologists and sleep specialists here served as an enticing challenge to me. It afforded me an opportunity to develop my practice the way I felt would be most beneficial to the community. I also was impressed by the warmth and friendliness of folks around here, by the family-oriented values of the community. I felt that this would be an ideal environment for my family.

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. My parents immigrated to the US when I was 15 years of age. Upon my graduation from High School in Brooklyn, NY I’ve joined the US Army. During my 26-year career in the Army I have been stationed in Texas, North Carolina, Washington, DC, Germany and Hawaii.

Q: Can you relate to any of the sleep issues your patients have?

A: Absolutely — both adults and pediatrics. On adults side of sleep medicine I am intimately familiar with the effects of sleep deprivation that so many of my patients with a variety of different sleep-related disorder experience. I have been exposed to prolonged periods of sleep deprivation both as a part of my medical occupation (internship, residency, being on call) and as part of my military affiliation (deployments, combat environment). I also know well what it is like to work shift-work. I did so for about five years as an enlisted medic in the Army while I was attending college in my off-duty time. I have done a lot of traveling for the military—this has familiarized me with the concept of jet-lag on a personal basis. Finally, my father suffers from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, and if I can get him to be compliant with the therapy, I should be able to do the same to any other patient.

On pediatric side, being a father of three kids I can claim personal experience with sleep terrors, nightmares, night fears, sleep walking, bed wetting, bedtime resistance, challenges of transitioning of a child to independent sleeping, insufficient sleep and circadian clock variations in teenagers, ADHD, and medication effects on children’s sleep. Whew!

Q: Dr. Fomin, I know you’re also a neurologist. What are the typical neurological issues you encounter in children?

I see children in my Sleep Medicine practice since that was part of my training as a Sleep Medicine specialist. However, I don’t see any patients younger than 18 years of age in my Neurology practice. To see children in Neurology one must have gone through specialized Pediatric Neurology Fellowship training which I have not done. Luckily, my partner, Dr. Balmakund, is a great Pediatric Neurologist who is Board Certified in General Pediatrics, Neurology, and Pediatric Neurology.

fomin1.jpgDr. Fomin most recently served as European Regional Medical Command Consultant for Neurology and Department of Medicine Chief at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The Mercy Sleep Disorders Center, located at 2708 Rife Medical Lane in Rogers, can be reached at 479-338-3571. Fore more information, go to www.Mercy4U.com.

All Akimbo: ‘Wow, I’m pregnant!’

By Kim Blakely

Wahoo! The fog is lifting. I’m starting to feel like the old me again … only pregnant.

Morning sickness (which for me was more like all-day, with a special emphasis on night, sickness) has mostly gone away, and although I still feel exhausted much of the time I’m not so tired that it’s hard for me to function.

(I had an “aha” moment about all this when I pulled up in front of a toy store while Mojo was in preschool just before Christmas break, hoping to sneak in a little last minute shopping. I suddenly just realized that, hey, I actually felt OK. Amazing.)

All that is super-fabu-magnifico, but quite possibly the most important thing is this: I now know I’m having a baby. All the pregnancy tests and ultrasounds and doctor’s checkups had failed to truly convince me – I guess I just didn’t believe, deep down inside, that this could really be happening. But over the last few days, just after I hit the 16 week mark, it has finally clicked. I’m pregnant!! (I know, I know … took long enough for me to figure it out.)

Just about everything, including that, has been different about this pregnancy. When I was pregnant with Mojo, I scarcely thought of anything BUT being pregnant. Oh, sure, I went about my life while I waited for him to be born, but always tucked away neatly just behind whatever thought process was required to complete tasks at hand was the realization that I was growing a person.

I’m just starting to feel this baby move, although it’s not a regular thing by any stretch of the imagination. I felt Mojo move before I was out of the first trimester, so it seems like I’ve been waiting forever this time around.

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and everything measures right on track. I was blessed with pre-eclampsia toward the end of my pregnancy with Mojo (Note my sarcasm here? The only “blessing” in that is that I didn’t have to wait for labor to start. I had an emergency c-section and got to meet my sweet boy lots sooner than I thought possible.). I’ve been worrying about whether that will happen again, and whether there’s a chance it might hit me even earlier this time around. So far, my blood pressure is nice and low, and my labs look great.

And we heard the baby’s heartbeat again – in the 140s, as compared to Mojo’s typical 160-170 range in utero.

On Monday, we’ll go back to the perinatologist for the big anatomical ultrasound. Yikes!

When I was pregnant with Mojo, I counted the minutes before each and every scan. Monday’s scan, however, stands to be the first one I don’t dread this time around; I’m actually hoping for the best rather than fearing the worst. Until now, I’ve gone to most of my appointments pretty much expecting to hear that something had happened, that the baby wasn’t growing, its heart wasn’t beating, and various other forms of horrible-ness.

Don’t get me wrong – I do still harbor that brand of fear, and I suppose I always will. But this time, I’m simply excited to get another long look at my baby. I wonder what other differences (or similarities) between Mojo and this baby we’ll discover in that exam room…

Click here to see all All Akimbo posts (and get the back story!)

Healthy Mama: Your FAQ’s about common childhood sleep issues

fomin.jpg Dr. Dimitry Fomin specializes in neurology and sleep medicine at Mercy Health System’s Sleep Disorders Center. We narrowed down the most frequently-asked-questions about sleep issues and Dr. Fomin agreed to answer them here for us. He even answered one that keeps some of us women up way too many nights: the s-n-o-r-i-n-g husband.

Q: Does playing video games or watching television before going to bed affect sleep quality for kids or adults?

A: Yes. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason is a straight-forward one. Assuming that a television show one is watching before sleep is not something from the realm of “The latest discoveries in the world of trigonometry”, the content of the programs we choose to watch or the games we play are highly psychologically stimulating. This stimulation makes it harder for us to relax to fall asleep. The second reason is a bit more technical. You see, modern TV screens and computer monitors emit a kind of light that is very similar in its physical characteristics to natural daylight. Biologically, we humans are programmed to wake up when exposed to daylight. This has to do with a hormone that our brain produces, called melatonin. Melatonin is important in regulating our sleep and wake cycle. It contributes to a deep and sustained sleep. However, our brain will not produce melatonin unless we are in a dim light for an hour or two during our regular sleep time.

Q: What are the common sleep disorders in children?

A: Believe it or not, the most common sleep disorder in children has nothing to do with health. Statistically, nowadays the most common sleep-related problem in children is insufficient amount of sleep and/or poor sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene has to do with our behaviors related to sleep initiation, sleep maintenance and awakening. Poor sleep hygiene leads to such common behavioral sleep-related problems such as:

  • Bedtime resistance (seen in 10-30% of toddlers and preschoolers)
  • Inappropriate night awakenings (25-50% of 6- to 12-month-olds, 30% of 1-year-olds, and 15-20% of 1-3-year-olds).

Of true sleep disorders, common ones are sleep-walking (most common in children of 4 to 8 years of age), insomnia and delayed phase circadian rhythm disorder in adolescents.

Q: Are there sleep-related disorders linked to pregnancy?

A: There are two in particular: Restless Limbs Syndrome and sleep-related breathing abnormalities. These are commonly undiagnosed and untreated because of the notion on both a patient’s and a health care provider’s part that since pregnancy is a transient state, so are sleep-related problems that emerge during this state. However, for many women these problems could have a significant impact on their well-being. Given the fact that these two conditions can be easily diagnosed and treated in most cases, there is no need to ignore them.

Q: What are night terrors and what should we do if our child is having them?

A: It is proper to call these sleep terrors, as opposed to night terrors, since they can occur during daytime naps as well. Sleep terrors is a disorder of sleep that is a sibling to sleepwalking. They belong to a family of sleep disorder we call partial arousal parasomnias that are episodic in their occurrence and share a common underlying pathophysiology and have a number of overlapping clinical features.

The common theme of this class of disorders is that they share characteristics of both the waking and deep sleep states, and involve autonomic and skeletal muscle manifestations, autonomic behaviors, and disorientation. They occur almost exclusively during the deepest stage of sleep, called slow-wave sleep, and, therefore, do not involve dreaming. Since the majority of slow-wave sleep takes place in the first half of our sleep period, both sleepwalking and sleep terror episodes occur within one or two hours of sleep onset.

Sleep terrors are dramatic events accompanied by autonomic and behavioral manifestations of intense fear and, as such, can be distressing to parents. As disturbing and frightening as these events appear to the observer, the child is totally unaware of his or her behavior. Paradoxically, sleep terrors are much worse to watch than to experience, and much less traumatic to the child than a nightmare or bad dream. Most children stop having sleepwalking episodes or sleep terrors by adolescence. In the interim parents need to ensure the child has a safe sleep environment, triggering and/or exacerbating factors are eliminated, and proper sleep hygiene is followed.

Safety measures include use of gates (doorways, top of staircases), locking of outside doors and windows, lighting of hallways, eliminating floor clutter in the sleep environment. Parents can use door/window alarms or a bell attached to the bedroom door. Ensure adequate sleep, maintain regular sleep-wake schedule. Avoid awakenings as attempts to awaken a child during a parasonmia will typically increase agitation and prolong the event. Guide the child back to bed to encourage return to normal sleep. Avoid interfering as this can prolong the event. The normal response of parents is to try and comfort their child during one of these episodes, which may increase agitation. Avoid next-day discussions, as this I likely to worry the child and may lead to bedtime resistance. Medication therapy is needed very rarely, but may be indicated in cases of frequent or severe episodes, high risk of video11.jpginjury, violent behavior, or serious disruption to the family.

For more info on sleep terrors, click the icon on the right to watch a short video podcast of Dr. Fomin explaining the difference between a sleep terror and a more common nightmare.

Q: What can I do if my spouse snores and I can’t sleep?

There are times when snoring is just noise and represents no underlying illness. In such cases the least invasive intervention is to have the snoring person sleep alone in the environment where the noise does not disturb anyone else. Other techniques for minimizing snoring is to have the snoring spouse avoid sleeping on his or her back, avoid alcohol consumption before sleep, avoid sleep deprivation, and maintaining healthy body weight. Alternatively, there are dental appliances and surgical interventions available to minimize snoring.

Unfortunately, for most people snoring is not “just noise”, but a symptom of a medical disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) syndrome. This condition is a serious and potentially lethal disorder that has been shown to contribute to the development of coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmia, systemic and pulmonary hypertension. Untreated OSA has been implicated as a contributing factor to heart attacks and strokes and creates a major risk for vehicular and industrial accidents. It has also been thought to contribute to the development of obesity and suppression of immune system.

Early diagnosis and proper treatment have been shown to prevent most of the negative effects to one’s health from an untreated OSA. So, talk to your doctor about having you or your spouse evaluated for presence of this condition. Treating OSA will not only improve snoring and the health of the person who is snoring, but also the quality of sleep of the spouse who has to listen to that awful noise on nightly basis.

Q: Any advice on how to get a child to go to sleep on his own? (Rather than a parent having to stay in the room until they fall asleep?)

The question of whether a child should sleep alone or with the parents (either in the same room or in the same bed) is as ancient as the human race itself. There is no scientific basis that can clearly support one side of the argument over the other. This decision is made on individual family basis and has more to do with the cultural and socioeconomic reasons than with medical ones. However, no matter which sleeping arrangement the parents choose, one important issue is to make sure the environment in which the child initiates sleep remains constant throughout the entire sleep period. In other words, if the parent is present during the time the child is falling asleep, the parent will have to remain by the child’s side during the entire sleep period. If the child falls asleep with the light on, the light should remain on during the entire sleep period. If the child falls asleep with some background noise or music, this should continue for the duration of sleep. If this rule is not followed, than sleep-related behavioral abnormalities are likely to occur. For parents who choose to have the child sleep alone the following are general guidelines:

  • Institute a sleep schedule that ensures adequate sleep. A bedtime should be set that is appropriate for the child’s age and that provides adequate sleep at night.
  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine that is approximately 20-45 minutes and includes three to four soothing activities (e.g. bath, pajamas, stories)
  • Maintain daytime naps at least through the age of 3 to 3.5 years, as sleep deprivation in a young child will increase nighttime arousals and thus increase sleep problems.
  • Use transition objects such as a blanket, doll, or stuffed animal.
  • Do not respond immediately to a baby’s movements or sounds to allow the baby a chance to return to sleep independently.
  • Often a parent’s response will contribute to a prolonged arousal. The key to a successful transition from relying on parental intervention to self-soothing to fall asleep is to have the child put to bed drowsy but awake at bedtime. This will encourage the development of self-soothing skills, which will generalize to self-soothing back to sleep following normal nighttime arousals.
  • Discontinue nighttime feedings in a baby older than 6 months. Extinction, graduated extinction and fading of adult intervention are three behavioral strategies that can be used to transition a child to independent sleep. Extinction (“crying it out”) involves putting the child to bed at a designated bedtime and then systematically ignoring the child until a set time the next morning. Graduated extinction involves putting the child to bed drowsy but awake and waiting progressively longer period of time, usually in 5-minute increments, before checking on the child. On each subsequent night, the initial waiting period before checking is increase by 5 minutes. When parents check on the child, they should reassure the child but keep contact brief (1-2 minutes) and neutral (e.g. pat on shoulder rather than pick up and cuddle). The success of graduated extinction is usually based on the parents’ ability to be consistent and follow through.
  • Finally, fading of adult intervention is appropriate for families who are unable to tolerate the above extinction approaches or consider them to be unacceptable. A plan should be developed that gradually fades adult intervention. In order to develop such a strategy, the end goal should be identified (e.g. falling asleep independently at bedtime) and successive steps to achieving that goal specifically outlined (e.g. 3 days of establishing a bedtime routine and setting bedtime; 3 nights of parent sitting with the baby while the baby falls asleep in the crib; 3 nights of parents sitting 3 feet from the crib while the baby falls asleep; 3 nights of sitting in the doorway; 3 nights of sitting outside the doorway; and so forth).
  • Parents can start with instituting treatment at bedtime only and responding to their child in their usual manner throughout the night. However, some parent may decide to respond to their child’s night wakings in the exact same manner as at bedtime to provide a consistent response at all sleep times.

Q: They’re not sleep/night terrors – my child is afraid to start the night out in his own room. Any advice?

Nighttime fears are common, and typically both normal and benign. Most children experience bedtime or middle of the night fears at some point during childhood, and these are usually considered a normal aspect of development. These fears characteristically begin to occur during preschool years as children develop the cognitive capacity to understand that they can get hurt or be harmed. Parents must maintain a balance between reassuring the child and avoiding reinforcement of the fears. If a child is reassured too much, the parents may be subtly providing positive attention for the fearful behavior, thus increasing the likelihood that it will reoccur. In addition, some children may interpret their parents’ concern about the fears as tacit proof that the fears are well founded.

Suggestion for way parents can respond to their child’s nighttime fears include reassuring and communicating the idea of safety, such as having parents repeatedly tell the child that he or she is safe and that the parents are always nearby and will make sure that noting bad happens (e.g. “Mommy and Daddy are right downstairs and we’ll always make sure that you are safe.”). Teach the child developmentally appropriate coping skills and discuss alternative ways to respond to nighttime fears, such as “being brave” and making positive self-statements (e.g. “Monsters are just pretend.”) Another strategy is to provide examples of coping role models by reading stories about children who are afraid and conquer their fears. Develop creative solutions, such as the use of “monster spray” (parent fills a spray bottle with water and sprays the child’s room and closet at bedtime). Having a pet as a nighttime companion or having siblings share a bedroom are alternative strategies that work for some families. Whenever possible, the child should be actively involved in generating solution to foster a sense of mastery and control. Encourage the use of security objects, as they can be comforting to the child. Use a night light to decrease a child’s fear of the dark or monsters. Leave the bedroom door open, so that a child does not feel isolated. Avoid television shows and movies that may be frightening or overstimulating, particularly just before bedtime. Teach the child relaxation strategies, such as deep breathing or visual imagery (e.g. imagining a beach or other favorite scene), which can help a child relax at bedtime and fall asleep more easily. Discuss the child’s fears and alternative ways to respond to the fears during the day rather than in the evening, as this is less likely to provoke anxiety. Set appropriate, firm, and consistent limits on bedtime behavior to avoid reinforcing the child’s “being scared.” For example, a parent might say, “Remember, no crying and no calling at bedtime.” Institute a “checking system” at bedtime to provide the child with a predictable schedule (e.g. every 10 minutes) of parental reassurance. This has the benefit of making parental contact non-contingent on the child’s behavior (e.g. calling out). Encourage the child to remain in bed or in the bedroom , so that he or she does not become conditioned to avoid the bedroom. If parental presence is temporarily required to alleviate the child’s fears, it is generally better for parents to stay in the child’s room rather than to have the child join the parents in their room. Develop a reward system for appropriate bedtime behavior (stickers for being a “big boy”) rather than reinforcing (with attention) the learned fearful behavior.

Dr. Fomin most recently served as European Regional Medical Command Consultant for Neurology and Department of Medicine Chief at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The Mercy Sleep Disorders Center, located at 2708 Rife Medical Lane in Rogers, can be reached at 479-338-3571. Fore more information, go to www.Mercy4U.com.

Devotion in Motion: Never too old

“Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Luke 2:25, 26 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

I spent the bulk of my childhood playing a part in one kind of Christmas program or another. When I was in kindergarten, I was one of the holiday toys riding on “The Little Engine that Could” — a kite to be specific. My dad constructed my costume out of corrugated cardboard and duct tape, and my mom decorated the whole thing with shiny Christmas paper and added a tinsel tail. When I wore the thing, it felt more like a trap of some sort or a torture device. I was sandwiched between layers of pasteboard that bent down my ears. If I ever sat down in it I was helpless – like a turtle lying flat on his back on the highway – until somebody took pity on me and helped me up. Nevertheless, I played my part as a kite because that’s what little kids did at Christmas.

In the years that followed, I was in a Christmas program every year, and often I was in two or three (when you figure in all the programs at church, clubs and school.) I recited memory verses, sang carols in kiddie choirs, and marched down the aisle of the church carrying a candle. In successive years I was a Joseph, a shepherd, and a wise man. I worked puppets. I was a caroler in a shadow show. I was a “Gift of the Spirit.” I was a soldier in George Washington’s army. I was Charlie Brown. I was The Narrator. And once in a youth group play I was the Prince of Darkness, Satan himself. (My parents said I was a natural in this role.)

By the time I turned 13, I had had enough! I was sulking in the car on my way to youth group Christmas program practice. I told my parents I had done my last Christmas program. I wasn’t a little kid any more.

To my surprise, my parents agreed with me. They said it was very true that I was no longer a little kid. I had grown up into a young man. And, as a young man who was intended to be busy about the Lord’s work, I would be in that year’s Christmas program and probably many more.

I hate to admit it, but Mom and Dad were right. It was probably one of the truest things they ever said. I was in Christmas programs in high school and then during my years of Bible college. This is my 24th Christmas as preacher at the Antioch Christian Church, and I have been in a Christmas program every year since I started here. Many years, I have been in more than one program. This year has been no exception.

simeon1.jpgToday’s scripture (at the top) tells of Simeon, who praised God when he was privileged to see Baby Jesus in the Temple. He was a very old man, and the Lord had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. As he held the Baby, Simeon told God that he was now ready for the Lord to take him home. Because Simeon had seen Jesus, his life was complete.

What Simeon knew (and what I’m learning) is that a person never gets too old to offer praise to the Christ Child. You’re never too old to be part of the Christmas program. And your life is never complete until you see Jesus. Serve Him with gladness today.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” (Sing that title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man.”) He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 17) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the children will have their Christmas program this Sunday night). You should write him at extramailbox@juno.com.

What’s on Sale: Christmas items

75-off-christmas.jpg

The Rockwood Files: 2008 Round-Up

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

With less than 30 days before the year ends, I took a look back at the 11 months we’ve left behind and year-2008.JPGrounded up a few pieces of “columns past” that give a snapshot of how the year has gone. It’s been a fast, funny year and I appreciate the opportunity I had to share it with you in this chunk of newspaper space.

On a few extra pounds after last Christmas…

As much as I’d like to blame pregnancy, gravity and age for this predicament, I know I had a lot to do with it. I’m pretty sure all those trips to Chuck E. Cheese and McDonalds were a factor. The kids are so excited when we get there that they end up taking three or four bites of their food and then race off to play, leaving me at the table to stare at leftovers and tell myself it would be wrong to let perfectly good pepperoni or French fries go to waste. But ultimately, that’s exactly where they go – to waist. My waist. Meanwhile my kids are burning tons of carbs crawling through those kid-size tunnels. No wonder they’re so skinny.

I wish I liked working out as much as they love those tunnels.

On love and laughter…

Sure, love and passion are great, especially for Valentine’s Day. Everybody wants love and passion. But so much of day-to-day life is like a steep, rain-slick hill – hard to navigate, scary, sometimes treacherous. And if you don’t walk it with somebody who can help you laugh, even through your missteps, you’re toast. You’ll never make it.

Over two years of dating and almost 10 years of marriage, Tom and I have been through job changes, house moves, miscarriages, the death of my only brother, and three new babies who have taught us what life is all about. On Valentine’s Day, I’ll certainly be grateful for the love and passion, the commitment, the loyalty and friendship. But more than anything, I’m thankful for the laughter – the every day, get-ya-through-anything laughter.

On the Easter Bunny vs. Santa…

If I had to choose between being the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, I’d be the bunny. Hands down. When it comes to holiday icons, the Easter Bunny has negotiated a pretty sweet deal. Pun intended.

Sure, Santa gets more hype than his furry counterpart. But along with the hype comes the headache of super stardom. Every year, Santa’s very existence is called into question, and a dubious gang of underage paparazzi stay up all night just to catch a glimpse of him. Santa also has a ton of bookkeeping work. Just imagine how long it takes to compile the infamous Naughty and Nice list. My three kids alone switch back and forth between the lists at least a couple times a day.

On starting a business…

If you want to start your own business, there’s one essential ingredient you’ve got to have. It’s not hard work or a great location or a solid business plan – although all those things are important. The one thing you really need is this: a dash of crazy.

Starting your own business is one of those ideas that looks great on paper and seems nearly impossible in real life. I know because I’m doing it. I can’t even believe I’m doing it. Like most moms, I already had a full plate with the kids, the dogs, the house, the baseball and soccer games, the column deadlines. What am I, nuts? The answer is yes – a little. Otherwise I’d be doing something entirely more sane, like trying to spin 18 plates in the air while hopping on a pogo stick.

On parenting a picky eater…

I have this vision of my son as a twenty-something wearing a tuxedo and looking dashing at his wedding reception. In this vision, he is seated beside a banquet table full of chicken nuggets, bologna and cheese sandwiches, pepperoni pizza and yogurt cups, and all the wedding guests are staring at me in silent judgment wondering “Where did his mother go wrong?”

On flying alone with 3 kids…

Then I had to quietly explain to Jack that, although he had the toy first and it was technically his turn, the world is basically an unfair place, particularly when you’re on a plane with a toddler. While Jack was shocked at my hasty move, his sister was intrigued. When she shrieked and got what she wanted, I could see the realization in her baby blue eyes – a true, “ah-ha” moment. In an instant, she knew she owned me for the duration of the flight.

When her ears starting hurting during the flight, the only thing that kept Kate entertained was to let her put goldfish crackers into my mouth. If I liked the little orange, fish-shaped crackers, it would have been a lovely way to end the flight. But I do not like goldfish crackers. I do not like them in the rain. I do not like them on a plane. But I will eat them all the same when I am forced to on a plane.

On shopping for a recliner with my husband…

The male salesperson pointed out that this particular recliner comes with an attached remote control massager. The thing reminded me of the Michelin Man character, with rolls upon rolls of bloated foam padding covered with wrinkly leather. But I didn’t say anything because I’d promised to be open-minded. Tom said, “Sit down and try it out, honey.” So I did, and I’ll admit the chair feels fabulous – like a vibrating bed of Twinkies. It’d be great if I could just wear a blindfold every time I walked into the room.

Thanks for reading The Rockwood Files in 2008. Stick around for more in the New Year!

Mamas’ Tip of the Day: Save your scratched DVDs

nemodvd.jpgIf you’ve got kids, then most likely you’ve got DVDs – lots of them. And if your kids are like mine, they love to get their little hands on the discs which inevitably results in lots of little scratches on DVDs that will ultimately stop working because of the damage. So here’s a little tip I got from a fifth grader (and then confirmed it with a little online research) on how to fix minor DVD scratches.

Use a small amount of toothpaste and rub it gently onto the disc. Then clean it off by rubbing from the center of the disc out to the edge in a straight line (not a circular motion or side-to-side). Another blogger suggested using Pledge instead of toothpaste because the waxy spray fills in the scratches, just like it does on furniture. I tried out both tips on our scratched-up Finding Nemo DVD, and it worked wonders.

Click here for more info on the toothpaste and Pledge repair methods.

If that doesn’t work, you could also try a professional repair kit like Skip Doctor or CD Clinic, available on Amazon.com.

Got a great tip to share with your fellow mamas? Send us an e-mail at mamas@nwaMotherlode.com or click on the word “comment” to post your suggestion on the site.

santa3.jpg

http://nwamotherlode.com/archives/1295

Jamie Stein Won Wizard of Oz Tickets!

ruby_slippers.jpgJamie Stein is going “over the rainbow” next month when she picks up FREE tickets to see Wizard of Oz at the Walton Arts Center. Jamie entered our online drawing last week for the pair of tickets that also come with a complimentary gift certificate to Jose’s Mexican Restaurant.

Jamie is a stay-at-home mom of two very cute little girls, Laney, who is 3, and Sadie, who is 1. (You can see them in photos posted in her blog by clicking HERE.) She’s married to Brandon who is a salesperson for a construction company.

“This was my mom’s favorite movie while I was growing up. I loved it, too, because we always watched it together every year,” she said. “This is a really great Christmas gift!” Jamie’s mom lives in Fayetteville, so it sounds like a pretty safe bet that this mother-daugther duo will be going to the show together.

Jamie found out about nwaMotherlode.com from her sister Holly, who works at Signature Bank. (Thanks, Holly!) She had entered several previous giveaways on the site, but this time it was her name we drew out of our online hat. (That just goes to show that persistence pays off – literally.)

We hope you have a great time at the show, Jamie! Congrats on the big win!

If you didn’t win this pair of tickets but still want to see Wizard of Oz on stage, here’s the info you need to know: Performance times are Tuesday, Jan. 6 at 7pm., Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 7pm, Thursday, Jan. 8 at 7pm, Friday, Jan. 9 at 8pm, Saturday, Jan. 10 at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday, Jan. 11 at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets range from $20-$58 and can be purchased by calling Walton Arts Center Box Office at 479-443-5600 or by visiting waltonartscenter.org.

Connection Parenting Classes to Begin Jan. 6th

connection-parenting.JPGA seven-week series of classes on Connection Parenting will begin on January 6th at Pages of Parenting Bookstore (located at 388 E. Sunbridge Drive in Fayetteville). Class time begins at 10 a.m. and ends at noon.

Connection Parenting classes are based on the book by Pam Leo. The program is designed for anyone involved with children and can be an alternative discipline approach. The fee is $25 per person, per class, and includes the Connection Parenting book, a journal and handouts. Class size is limited and advance registration is required.

Marti Genge, an ACPI Certified Coach for Parents and Families, will instruct the class. She has more than 18 years experience in parenting education. To reserve a spot or for more info, call 479-582-3139 or visit the Pages of Parenting website at www.pagesofparenting.com.

Beauty Buzz: “Ask Amy” about night creams

Dear Amy,

Do you think heavy night creams really make a difference? I don’t like the feel of a heavy lotion on my face at night, but I don’t want to neglect my skin either. Any advice?

Dear Creamy,nightcream.jpg

If you don’t like the feel of a heavy cream, I’m betting it’s because you don’t need it. The only people who need a super emollient moisturizer are those with super dry skin. You’ll get the same skin nurturing benefits from a lightweight lotion or serum-type product. Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Intensive Night Cream and Olay’s Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum are great, inexpensive options.

Amy Cunningham is our favorite make-up “product junkie.” E-mail your questions to her at mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and it may be featured in her weekly column.

Recipes from Splenda.com

splenda-logo.jpgFor those of you who need to lay off sugar, here are a few great recipes from Splenda.com that you might want to try during the holidays. Enjoy!

Apple Dip

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese

1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

1/4 cup SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 sliced apples

Directions: 1 Combine all ingredients, except apples, in a large bowl, mixing with a hand mixer until smooth. Serve immediately or chill, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

2 Use sliced apples for dipping.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Serving Size: 1/2 sliced apple, 2 tablespoons cream cheese dip

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 8

Calories 140 | Calories from Fat 40 | Fat 5g (sat 3g) | Cholesterol 15mg | Sodium 130mg | Carbohydrate 21g | Fiber 2g | Sugar 18g | Protein 3g

Raspberry Cocktail Sauce with Chilled Shrimp

Ingredients:

Cocktail Sauce:

1 cup no-sugar added raspberry preserves

1/4 cup prepared horseradish

3 tablespoons SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch black pepper

2 pounds cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp

Directions: 1 Place cocktail sauce ingredients in a food processor or a blender. Process or blend for 30 seconds or until smooth.

2 Chill cocktail sauce at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with shrimp. Cocktail sauce will keep, refrigerated, for five days.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Serving Size: 2 shrimp, 1 tablespoon sauce

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 32

Calories 45 | Calories from Fat 0 | Fat 0g (sat 0g) | Cholesterol 55mg | Sodium 125mg | Carbohydrate 4g | Fiber 1g | Sugar 3g | Protein 6g

Sweet Red Pepper Hummus

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained

2 cups chopped red bell pepper

olive oil-flavored cooking spray

Directions: Spray non-stick saute pan with olive oil spray. Saute red peppers for 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside. In food processor, add all ingredients including red peppers. Puree for 1 minute, scrape the sides, and continue to puree until smooth. Refrigerate until serving time.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Serving Size: 1/4 cup

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 15

Calories 60 | Calories from Fat 10 | Fat 1g (sat 0g) | Cholesterol 0mg | Sodium 190mg | Carbohydrate 10g | Fiber 2g | Sugar 2g | Protein 2g

Citrus Glazed Chicken with Almonds

Ingredients:

4 (4 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, thawed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup almond slices, toasted

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place chicken breasts on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with one tablespoon of orange juice concentrate (reserve remaining concentrate for sauce). Bake in oven 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

2 Place remaining orange juice concentrate, lemon juice and chicken broth in a small saucepan. Blend together SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into broth. Heat over medium-high heat and simmer 8-10 minutes or until the sauce starts to thicken slightly. Remove from heat. Whisk butter into sauce. Add chives and parsley. Pour sauce over chicken breasts. Sprinkle almonds over breasts and serve.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 4

Calories 220 | Calories from Fat 70 | Fat 8g (sat 2g) | Cholesterol 75mg | Sodium 200mg | Carbohydrate 9g | Fiber 1g | Sugar 6g | Protein 28g

 

Apple and Squash Bake

Ingredients:

1/3 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

1 teaspoon molasses

1/4 cup light butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

2 pounds butternut squash – peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch slices

2 large apples – cored, and cut into 1/2 inch slices

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2 In a medium bowl, stir together SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener, molasses, butter, flour, salt, and mace. Arrange squash in an ungreased 9×13 inch baking dish. Top with slices of apple, then sprinkle with the sugar mixture. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.

3 Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until squash is tender.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 4

Calories 120 | Calories from Fat 30 | Fat 3g (sat 2g) | Cholesterol 10mg | Sodium 330mg | Carbohydrate 24g | Fiber 5g | Sugar 11g | Protein 2g

Asparagus with Sesame-Ginger Sauce

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon tahini (pureed sesame seeds)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

1 pinch red pepper flakes

48 medium-size asparagus spears, trimmed, peeled and cleaned

Directions:

1 In a food processor or blender, combine everything except the asparagus and mix until thoroughly blended. Set aside.

2 Cut the asparagus into two-inch pieces, on the diagonal.

3 Half-fill a large skillet with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and simmer just until crisp-tender (approx. 4-5 minutes). Drain well but do not rinse.

4 Transfer to serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the hot asparagus and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 7

Calories 60 | Calories from Fat 30 | Fat 3g (sat 1g) | Cholesterol 0mg | Sodium 135mg | Carbohydrate 6g | Fiber 3g | Sugar 3g | Protein 3g

 

Sweet Potato Bisque

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 slices bacon, diced

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

4 new potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cups flavorful chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon SPLENDA® Sugar Blend

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1 Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat; add bacon.

2 Cook for about 2 minutes to render the fat.

3 Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the orange juice and reduce to thick syrup.

4 Add the potatoes and stock and bring to a boil.

5 Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

6 Add SPLENDA® Sugar Blend for Baking and cayenne.

7 Ladle mixture into a blender and pure thoroughly in batches; strain and season with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, thin with a little chicken or vegetable stock.

8 Serve warm.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 8

Calories 180 | Calories from Fat 45 | Fat 5g (sat 1g) | Cholesterol 0mg | Sodium 860mg | Carbohydrate 29g | Fiber 3g | Sugar 8g | Protein 5g

Chunky Peanut Butter Triangles

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter

1/2 cup light butter, softened

1/4 cup SPLENDA® Sugar Blend

1/3 cup packed SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (11.5 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2 Combine flour and baking soda in small bowl; set aside.

3 Combine peanut butter, butter, SPLENDA® Sugar Blend and SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend in large bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chunks. Press into ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan, distributing chocolate chunks evenly.

4 Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars; slice each bar in half diagonally.

Submitted by: Maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

Nutrition Info (per serving) SERVES 42

Calories 110 | Calories from Fat 50 | Fat 6g (sat 3g) | Cholesterol 10mg | Sodium 50mg | Carbohydrate 12g | Fiber 1g | Sugar 8g | Protein 2g

Devotion in Motion: Clobbered by Christmas

“Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

I got ambushed by Christmas this year. I just didn’t see him coming. I should have remembered, cardmadsantainsidesm.jpgespecially since Christmas shows up every year, just like clockwork. But this year he was hiding behind Halloween and Thanksgiving, and for some reason I wasn’t paying attention. Then, before I knew it, December was here. He pounced out and clubbed me on the head with a fruitcake, tied me with tinsel and dragged me under the tree. I got clobbered by Christmas.

This morning, the school secretary Miss Geraldine came scurrying in with a homemade holiday food tray and said, “It just seems like I can’t get everything together this year.” That pretty much describes my situation. I usually send a lot of Christmas cards. This year… no. I usually make a PowerPoint slideshow for the Christmas cantata. This year… didn’t happen. I usually have my presents wrapped by now. This year… nope. I won’t bore you with the whole list of things left undone, but we’re only scratching the surface here. Trust me on this one.

In my defense, I’ve been pretty busy with other things – my sons and all their activities. And there’s been a lot of sickness and sadness in the church lately. I’ve attended the usual flurry of Christmas programs, parties, and parades. I just finished final exams for the high school Latin class I teach. So I haven’t been idle. I just haven’t been working on my holiday to-do list.

But there’s a silver lining to all this. I’m really having a very good Christmas. And it’s because of something my sister Cathie told me several Christmases ago. I was telling her I was feeling kind of sad after Christmas because I hadn’t been able to organize and pull-off a perfect Yuletide Season. She said, “Oh, John. You messed up. You tried to make a perfect Christmas. That never happens, so no wonder you’re sad. You should have aimed at having a good one!”

That, my dear friends, is the Gospel truth. Nothing in this life goes perfectly, and Christmas is no exception. And it’s important to remember how the celebration of Christmas got started. The holiday was originally called “Christ-mass” because the celebration was a communion service when the birth of Jesus was remembered. People went to Mass to honor Christ. So I figure that if, in the month of December, I get to remember and receive Christ in Holy Communion, then I’ve had a great “Christ Mass”. Everything else I do beyond that to celebrate His birth is just “gravy”. And instead of fretting about doing everything perfectly, I can spend my winter days thinking of the blessings God has given me at the Christmas season… and they are so very many!

Don’t strive for a perfect Christmas this year. Just aim for a good one.

From my house to your house, have a good Christmas. A really good one.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” (Sing that title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man”) He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 17) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where Christmas is never perfect, but is always good). You should write him at extramailbox@juno.com.

The Rockwood Files: It’s a wrap

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I remember being a kid and wondering why my mother was never as giddy about the approach of Christmas as my brother and I were. During the weeks leading up to the holidaychristmas-gift.jpg, she was just a blur of wrapping paper and Scotch tape, rushing here and there doing – well, I don’t know – Mom stuff. She definitely wasn’t a grinch, but her mood was not a lot of “fa, la, la, la, la” either. Didn’t she realize it was Christmas – the “most wonderful time of the year”?

It’s been a couple of decades since then, and now I – mother of three kids under the age of 8 – can say without hesitation that I just didn’t get it back then. My mother was keenly aware it was nearly time for Christmas. In fact, we moms can always hear the deafening “tick, tick, tick” of the clock, counting down to December 25th. And there’s just so much to do.

What a few years and a few kids have taught me is that Christmas can become a pretty big production. Every big production needs a director, and moms usually end up in that chair. But there’s no time to sit down because there’s shopping to do, gifts to wrap, family photos to shoot, lights to string, holiday cards to send, parties to attend, school plays to watch, church concerts to hear, meals to make, laundry to fold, carpool to drive, and on and on. December can be downright exhausting.

I was having lunch with a fellow mom today who said she’s a little sad because the holidays are about to be over. I’m a little sad about it, too, and I think it’s because there’s not enough time to enjoy it. I’ve been so busy sprinting up to the finish line that I forgot to enjoy the run. It’s a shame, really, because Christmas is supposed to be about more than the myriad of details that go into it.

We mothers (and dads, too) are so good at cueing the traditions and orchestrating the pageantry of Christmas that we really run the risk of missing out on it altogether. Sometimes multi-tasking can be a curse because what we need most this time of year is to be in the moment. We’re so used to looking ahead and getting on to the next thing on our list that it’s hard to just “be” – to look around and say “Yep, this is good.”

The other day I had one of those moments, and it helped me get out of my rush-rush holiday funk. I’d just picked up 2-year-old Kate from a play date and we were walking out to our van to go home. It was a sunny but cold December day, and I had a million things waiting to be done at home. I looked over at my little girl, who was all zipped up in her puffy, powder pink coat with a fur-trimmed hood that frames her face. She smiled the sweetest, simplest smile and looked up at the sky. I looked up at it, too, and closed my eyes so I could try to memorize her face in that moment and how wonderful it feels to have her warm little hand in mine when we’re walking together. That moment – that’s what Christmas should always feel like: love, peace, blessing, wonder, gratitude and hope.

If you, like me, find yourself working furiously behind the scenes to pull off a big holiday production, be sure you stop long enough to appreciate it, to honor the meaning of the holiday. Because the truth is that, in a few days, the wrapping paper will be crumpled at the bottom of a Hefty bag. The Christmas cookies will be morphing into fat cells. The new will wear off the toys, and January will get here before we’re ready. But before that happens, we have this day, this moment. We have the chance to slow down and just “be”. We have the opportunity to cherish the people we love, to memorize their smiles, to hold somebody’s hand, and to thank God for the chance to do it.

From my family to yours, have a very blessed Christmas.

Advertisement