Meaning in the Mayhem, Vlog Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of my little holiday video blogging effort – finding Meaning in the Mayhem.

Last time, I took you on a short little trip to the Nutcracker with us as I remembered to savor those moments with my entire family together to enjoy Christmas events.

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This time, I’m having you over to my front yard.  As I wrote about last month, we really did not know our neighbors.  And I was challenged to change that.  So we painted a picnic table and invited our street over for pizza.  Well, this week was our second Monthly Mondays and we had folks over for cookies and cocoa.  Just before they came, I sat down with the kids to record this next installment of Meaning in the Mayhem.  Because the important thing this season is the people.

 

Meaning in the Mayhem, Vlog Part 1

So I’m going to try to do a little video blogging this season (“vlog!”).  It’s super professional (ha, ha): Me and my iPhone as I wander through Houston doing Christmas stuff.  The reality is, this season can be a frenzied blur.  And I’m trying to stop and remember what really important and capture the sweet moments.

Today’s short little entry, our first, is from our excursion to The Nutcracker at Wortham Hall in Houston.  This is our second experience at the Nutcracker and it is always so fun.  This year all five of us got dressed up and went, and when we finally got downtown, parked, and through the lines, I stopped us in the lobby to find a little meaning.  We were together.  We were given tickets to create a special family memory.

And in the end, as the kids said, we remember what we love most about Christmas – enjoy:

 

 

2014 Letter

I love Christmas letters.

Seriously y’all, I love writing them and I love receiving them.  But they are going the way of the album with all these snazzy photo cards (which I totally do in addition to the letter, but alas, most folks do not!).  I have been writing a Christmas letter since my senior year of college.  When Bray and I got married, I changed Gindi’s Annual Christmas Letter to The Vincent Annual Christmas Letter and I’ve only missed one!

My master plan was to have a Christmas letter typed up over Thanksgiving and ready to print and stuff Thanksgiving weekend into our waiting Christmas cards.  And then the plague hit.  I’m still not recovered.  So on the back of folks Christmas card envelopes, I pointed them here to read our Christmas letter because I refused to go down the no-more-letter camp without a fight.  I’m doing it a little less traditionally this year as all you sweet readers have to suffer through the annual Christmas recap (and quite frankly, you already know most of this because you’re readers!).

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I’m wrapping up two years at Exxon where I traveled from Alaska to D.C.,

I even managed to fly B with me to Anchorage and that wasn’t easy.

I’m also finishing my term as President of the Women’s Energy Network,

It allowed me to speak to hundreds of women, and that was a major perk.

B’s out of restaurants and in corporate Goode now,

But his favorite pastime is still baling hay to feed all the cows.

We celebrated EIGHT years of marriage in May,

And it looks like we’re both planning to stay.

We had lots of fun family outings to the ranch and the farm,

We even rode in a Cajun 4th of July Parade and managed to avoid harm.

The kids started Pre-K 4 and, in October, turned five,

Look back through the years, I love seeing we passed survive for thrive.

We started a new neighborhood tradition,

I hope it brings our dream of building community to fruition.

The Vincent family sends Christmas blessings upon the four winds,

And we pray for peace and joy to settle on your family and friends.

The Holiday Plague, And What I Learned

So there was that time were all so sick at Christmas right after the kids turned two.

And then there was that time we were in the hospital the week of Thanksgiving with little man because of pneumonia.

This ranks right up there.

We have been SICK.  I haven’t slept through the night in a week.  I thought that wouldn’t still be happening with five year olds.  I was wrong.  First, it was little bit getting sick while I was in DC last Sunday.  She had it the longest poor darling.  Fevers for FIVE days.  After three days, we were at the doctor and they couldn’t find anything.  No flu.  No weird white blood cell count.  Just sick.  I was terrified as I fought traffic Wednesday night driving to the farm alone with her fever starting to spike again in the back seat.  I called friends to ask for some serious prayers just to get me where I was headed.

By Friday, she was improving, but the eldest had it.  And it hit him like a ton of bricks with shakes and body wracking coughs.  Meanwhile, while my dearest didn’t have fever, he sounded terrible with his equally racking coughs.

On Saturday, before the plague hit all five of us after leaving the farm, my engine light went on in my car, my mom called to say she had fallen and had been unable to reach a phone, and my car doors somehow magically locked with the keys inside just as I was trying to leave.  Saturday night, the three kids and I had fevers, coughs, chills, and sore throats, and the eldest’s got close to topping out at 105.  My voice left yesterday and hasn’t returned, and I don’t know when it will (and I’m relieved not to be able to spout orders).

There’s a couple of things I realized as I had time to reflect while lying bundled up in a dark room this morning.  One, I’m really glad I’m trying to do community again.  Because here’s the thing that happens to us mommas of littles.  We have our head so far down trying to survive all that is coming at us that we lose our relationships.  I don’t blame us.  Seriously, I used to be Emily Post about entertaining and sending thank you notes and casseroles, and I am failing miserably now.  I still haven’t sent thank you notes for October birthday presents, and I’ve not taken anyone a casserole after having a baby or death in a year.  I’ve sort of been trying to survive.  Work, kids, activities, etc.

But what’s happened is I’m actually pretty isolated.  I felt like I couldn’t call anyone for help on Saturday night.  Let me say this: I COULD have called someone for help, and I SHOULD have called someone for help!  However, I felt like since I’ve not done much for others in this survival season of trying to move my family forward that I couldn’t ask for help.

Building community is hard.  Especially right now.  It takes work.  It takes being incredibly intentional.  It may take staying up one night to cook a big batch of zucchini bread to freeze in case you have need of it.  I need to focus more on building community and then I’ll feel like I have a community if I have need of one too.  (If you’re in this survival mode too, then don’t be like me and know you can ask for help when you need it even if you’ve been a little MIA.)

The other thing that struck me was how I’d still rather be terribly ill surrounded by terribly ill littles than be well with no littles.  I had a lot of those holidays.  I felt physically fine because I wasn’t exposed to itty bitty germs, but I was heartsick.  Being a mom means you kiss all over your wee ones when they are puny, and in turn catch whatever plague has beset them.  And because they love each other, I can’t seem to separate them enough to keep them from getting each other’s bugs either.  And that’s fine too.

In the middle of all that sick, we still managed to see family and the farm and eat well and love well and be together.  Our closest little community.  So you look at that and pray the rest passes quickly.

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Then We Asked The Neighbors To Come

I have a crazy picnic table in my front yard now.

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Yes, that’s a turquoise, kelly green, and cocoa brown picnic table.

There’s this long and winding God story of how I got from hearing a message at Allume about hospitality and having six families I’ve never met in my front yard this week.  Twelve kids (only one of whom was older than 6).

But I’m still trying to figure out how to share it because I’m pretty overwhelmed at what God did to my little scaredy-cat, make-a-good-show, heart.  I will write a little about the journey once I’ve sat with it a while and it’s still pretty much unfolding.

I will say I did a lot that made me uncomfortable.  More than just driving the hubby’s truck to pick up an unfinished picnic table at Lowe’s and then spending the weekend sanding and painting a table with permanent paint with three five year olds (yes, they were each allowed to pick a color they wanted to use for the table).

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More the uncomfortable “what will people think” actions.  Walking up and down my street on Saturday morning with my kids and putting flyers in everyone’s mailbox inviting them to come to “the table” for Monthly Mondays.  The first of which would be the very next Monday with pizza and drinks.  Standing in my front yard with my kids at 5 pm wondering if anyone would come.

But this is what was more uncomfortable to me:  I have lived on my busy street in west Houston for eight years and I don’t know anyone that lives around me.  All of the 15 flyers I passed out on either side and across from my house went to people whose names I didn’t know and whose stories I’d never heard.  That became unacceptable.  And God basically let me know that He was proposing this as the solution.  I felt like I was going to throw up as soon as we delivered those flyers.

So there we stood, in the front yard, with ten boxes of pizza, a big cooler of water bottles and juice boxes, and a bowl of name tags (because I’m terrible with names and I figured if we all put our house number we’d know where the others were located on the street).

Six families came.  Y’all, out of fifteen houses, SIX whole families came.  Twelve kids played in the front tire swing and gobbled cookies one of the neighbors had brought “to the table.”

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I could have cried.  In one hour, six families on a busy street in a big city met and had dinner.  I heard the most amazing second chance love story from the retired couple down the street.  We discovered the husband in the house next to us is from Louisiana like Bray’s family and hunts and fishes just as avidly.  We had five different private schools represented because most of the families in our neighborhood don’t attend the public school where we are zoned.  Two moms offered to help me host December’s Monthly Monday of cookies and cocoa.

And everyone was told this table was theirs too.  That our house could be a place they were always welcome to come visit.  My kids maybe started to learn that our space has been given to us to share with others.

I’ve been trying to survive with work and triplets and a maze of schedules and competing demands.  I need to show the kids, and myself, that life shouldn’t all be rushed and hurried and that we can’t hide out behind our four walls when we get a spare moment to regroup.  Instead, we have to clear out some of the clutter and make time for community.

That’s what we’re missing.  That’s what we all need more of.  Community.