Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Traditions

The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season. Now please don't ask why, no one quite knows the reason.

Ever since Grace has been diagnosed with INAD, it seems that I become the Grinch, as soon as we turn the calendar over to December. Instead of the usual holiday cheer, I find the holiday tasks, like shopping and baking, to be just one more thing to get done, on top of taking care of Grace. Yes, somewhere along the way, I managed to lose that Christmas spirit that used to make me so happy.

Sharing a smile with Santa and Mrs. Claus
It starts with the shopping. Mom and I have a tradition of running over to Walmart on Thanksgiving night, just to look around. But I can hardly stand to look through the toy aisles. It breaks my heart to know that Grace isn't able to ask for any of the things in those aisles, and that she isn't able to play with them either.  Every part of me wants to be able to fulfill her Christmas wishes, only Grace can't tell me what they are.

When I was ready to start my Christmas shopping list, I wanted to bring Grace with mom and I, for the experience of shopping with her. Only part way through the day, her medical stroller broke, and it just seemed to add to my misery that nothing ever went right.

Grace and her preschool friends in their Christmas program.
Group photo after their program.
I got home that night, with only part of the shopping done, and a particularly bad attitude about the holidays in general. I told Kyle that I thought I wouldn't be able to take Grace with me next year to go Christmas shopping, because it's just to hard to manage her with everything else going on.  He was quick to remind me that I could leave her at home, but that I would be the one to regret not making those memories with her. I was still mad, but I admit it did make me stop and think.

I get so wrapped up sometimes in the things Grace isn't able to do, like being excited to see Santa Claus, making a Christmas list, helping to decorate the tree or even singing in her Christmas program. But Kyle reminded me to look for the things Grace is able to do, and enjoy those memories for what they are, and not what I think they should be. If not, I'm the one missing out on making memories with Grace each holiday season.

With her proud grandparents after the Christmas program.
Grace's teachers helped her make this beautiful plate for us.
So, I worked hard on having a better attitude. I didn't always do great, because it's hard not to wish things were different. But I don't want to miss making a single memory with Grace, and I will always be grateful for the time I have with her.

Duty called the second weekend of the month, and after I covered the Nokomis Christmas celebration, I was heading to Schram City for a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Kyle and Grace were at home, but he asked if they could meet me there.  We have taken Grace there to see Santa nearly every Christmas, and she always has a smile. 

Helping daddy put the angel on the tree.
Grace liked helping to put her ornaments on the tree.
I asked if Kyle was going to put her in her Christmas outfit, and after a moment of silence, he told me she was already dressed and that it would be okay. I was a little disappointed, but I knew it would be more important to have Grace there than what she was wearing. When the two of them arrived, Kyle made sure Grace had a Santa hat on with her princess outfit, and she looked just adorable. Santa and Mrs. Claus were excited to see Grace, and she had more than one smile while she sat on his lap.  No, she may not understand the concept of Santa Claus, but she certainly liked all the attention, and her smile made me happy.

Grace likes to watch the lights on the Christmas tree.
The next week was Grace's program at preschool, and as much as I enjoy seeing the kids sing, they are always hard for me too.  Before Grace was born, Kyle and I used to talk about whether or not our children would be the ones singing loudly and dancing or hiding out in the back row.  And sometimes it's hard that we've never had the chance to find out.

As we sat in the church pew, Kyle grabbed my hand as the tears started to spill out down my cheeks.  I would give anything to hear her little voice sing "Jingle Bells" or family favorite "Go Tell It on the Mountain."  But just because she can't sing, doesn't mean she enjoys the program. She smiles during some of her favorite songs, and really seems to enjoy watching her friends be part of it. By the end of the program, my tears had turned to smiles, proud of Grace for always finding a way to smile, even when her mommy thinks that's hard.

Matching Christmas manicures.
Christmas decorating at the house was another story though.  We were in the middle of renovating our basement, which pretty much meant the entire house was a disaster, full of stuff everywhere.  I was perfectly content not to set up a tree this year or any other decorations. After all, Grace wouldn't know whether or not we had a tree, and it seemed like just one more thing to do.

Helping to set up the nativity scene.
But a rather cold and icy weekend gave us a little extra family time at home one weekend, and we decided it might be fun to set up a small tree in the basement, because we couldn't get to our regular one in the garage.  After I set up the tree, Kyle helped Grace put the angel on top. Then we laid her underneath the tree as we decorated it with all of her ornaments. Kyle took care to show her each one before he placed it on the tree. It might not have been exactly how I remembered decorating the tree in my childhood, but it was still a special time.

Grace and I were home a couple of nights when Kyle was at basketball games, so we watched Christmas movies on television together. One night, we got matching pink and green manicures for Christmas, and the next, we set up the nativity set together. I showed Grace each piece as I got it out, telling her why it was important to the Christmas story, and then we read a couple of books, including one of my favorites, "Room for a Little One."

Grace is all ready to make a gingerbread house.
Grace and her daddy were in charge of decorations.
We even found time on Christmas Eve to put together a Mickey and Minnie Mouse gingerbread house.  I was in charge of construction (which is probably why a piece of the roof already fell off), while Kyle and Grace were in charge of the beautiful decorations.  Even though Grace couldn't really "help" with the decorating, Kyle always asked what she wanted to do next and where she wanted to put the candies.  We smiled and laughed the whole time, never once thinking about the fact that it wasn't perfect.

So proud of our beautiful gingerbread house.
So you see, even though life isn't perfect, you can dig deep and find a way to make memories that will last forever.  I'll be honest, some days, it's easier to be miserable, but I will tell you that it's definitely worth that extra effort to find your smile and make the best of whatever situations life throws your way.  It's not always fair, but I guarantee it will be worth it.

Even though I started the holiday season as the Grinch, I found myself celebrating Christmas Eve feeling like George Bailey, the richest man in Bedford Falls, from my holiday favorite "It's a Wonderful Life." Because it truly is ALWAYS a wonderful life.


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