The Weekend I Babysat my Boys

The first time Bruce mentioned going duck hunting with guys from work I said “no way”. I actually used harsher words than that, but “no way” was the generally theme of my response. There are only so many weekends leading up to Christmas and I didn’t want to “waste” a single one.

This particular weekend we were invited to a fun Christmas party on Friday night with the kids and then a real-deal grown-up Christmas party on Saturday night. My desire to go to those parties trumped my desire for my husband to go hunting (btw…hunting does not fit the normal profile husband. He has never actually been duck hunting before…just so you keep the right image of him in your mind. ;)).

But when Quade woke up sick Friday morning, my plans for the weekend changed…completely. There would be no fun parties. If there would be no fun parties maybe Bruce should get a fun weekend away. So I made the offer and he took me up on it. Phone calls were made immediately. I watched him excitedly pack a bag and figure out what he would need for a “duck hunt”.

While he packed I decided that in order to enjoy my next 48 hours with the boys I would need to take on a temporary persona. I would no longer be “mommy”…I would be “the babysitter”. Because babysitters play games. Babysitters don’t have to worry about the way kids turn out. Babysitters have fun & keep kids safe.

When I picked up Price from school I shared the news with the crew. While daddy was gone I would be their babysitter. The boys decided to call me “Megan”, because Megan is my friend who showers them with love…and candy. 😉

As Megan my first move was to get fast food for lunch. After naps we played games. That led to the oldest two boys writing the books “How a Car Works” & “How a Dinosaur Got Born”…which they then illustrated and “published”. writing books

The next meal scheduled was pizza (because a babysitter is not concerned with dietary needs). While eating we watched the “Christmas Carol”.  Day one completed. 

The next day started with more Christmas movies (this time “Santa Clause”). While they giggled at Tim Allen antics, I cooked a big breakfast. Unfortunately it took a little longer than I’d planned. They became a little hungrier and grouchier. By the time I presented them with these fun pancakes, they quickly ate them rather than praised them.

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(But you think they are cool, right? That feeds my “super mommy” ego.)

While Knox napped that morning we had hot chocolate and cookies…at 9 am. Sure did.

But I usually don’t let hot chocolate moments go by without a little Bible lesson. As we picked out mini-marshmallows from our cups, I read the four days we had missed from our Jesse Tree devotions.

One thing I really wanted to do with the boys that Saturday was an idea of first learned about while researching for an article I wrote for the MOB Society blog–> “Better to Give than Receive” (over there today).

Last year, Courtney DeFeo, a mom of two little girls, decided she was fed up with all the expectations and busyness of the holiday season. She didn’t love the message she was sending her daughters about what Christmas was all about. So she decided they would focus on everyone else around them and “light up” a stranger through kindness. She started“Light em up!” (Families Light up the Community with Kindness). 

She has a list of 100 different activities to do with your kids. The boys and I sat down at the table and looked through the list. We picked out the couple we wanted to do. I printed off labels and gathered supplies.

Then I made the crazy decision to take all 4 boys to Toys ‘R Us…on a saturday…before Christmas. Um, yeah. I’m not a huge fan of the attitudes that emerge when surrounded by shelves and shelves of toys. Suddenly they become “I-want-give-it-to-me-now” monsters. Each time they asked for a toy I said, “add it to your list” (a list I prayed they would never remember).

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After an hour of picking out Christmas gifts for nieces and nephews, birthday gifts for friends and ways to spend their own money, my head hurt from all the consumerism. Standing in line to check out I kept reminding Watts not to run out the automatic doors. As I counted the big boys’ dollar bills and quarters to pay for their toys, Watts started pushing Knox in the cart out those same automatic doors (grabbed him just in time).

With receipt in hand we made our exit from Toyland, Then I remembered the “Light ’em up” ideas we had prepared for. I reached in my diaper bag and pulled out our kit. Suddenly the boys “give me” attitude changed. They were fighting over who got to tape the money to the gumball machine. 

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Then Price said, “I want to give a candy cane to the lady we paid our money to.” He snatched the cane from my hand and ran towards the cashier. I caught this picture afterward. I love not only the smile on her face, but the looks of those waiting in line. You see how kindness grows? How it surprises people? Because “selfishness” is the norm and giving is surprising. 

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The same boy who was standing in line in the picture, came out to see what we were doing. He asked, “Why are you giving away money?” I told him, “God gave us the greatest gift when He gave us His Son. So at Christmas we thought we would give gifts.” 

When we walked to our car at the far end of an over-crowded parking lot, my boys were beaming. Not from the toys they had purchased but from the joy they just witnessed. They had been bit by the giving bug…and they wanted more. “Mommy, can we give him a candy cane? When can we do that again!” 

“Remember my name isn’t mommy, it’s Megan.” 😉 

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You Never Know the Burden Someone Else is Carrying

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For the past two years the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, we have sat on bleachers and cheered as high school bands passed by & giant balloons shaped like famous characters crowded the sky. Just when we had perfected the plan for where to park & sit, the parade coordinators changed the route.

Street closures and traffic caused a little strain in our marital communication. Finally we found a parking garage which appeared to be relatively close to our seats. Just like last year I brought blankets to lay down on the bleachers. And just like last year  I packed snacks and water for hungry kiddos waiting for the parade to start.

Strapping the Baby Bjorn on Bruce, I awkwardly slipped in Knox. Then in sherpa-like style I carried the diaper bag, snack backpack and three blankets. The boys’ appropriate excitement led them to run ahead of us and get too close to the street. Yelling out “STOP! Boys stay on the sidewalk. Slow down!” as blankets slipped from my arms. With each block we walked I felt my attitude slipping. It didn’t take much. I was already in a grumpy place, remember?

We arrived at our bleachers a few minutes before the parade started. This was good news considering we had little boys to keep entertained every moment until the first float arrived. But the flip side of arriving so late…packed bleachers. Finding room for a group of 6 adults and 8 children proved to be difficult.

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So we spread ourselves out among a section of seats. Price and his buddy chose to sit together. Unfortunately sitting together meant pulling santa hats over their eyes and kicking their legs with excitement. The worst part of their choice…the couple sitting in front of them repeatedly getting kicked in the bottom by two silly, squirmy boys.

In apologizing for the boys and moving them down a few rows (with more “leg” room), I started chatting with the “kicking” victim. One conversational topic led to another. That’s when she pointed out the people in the bleachers across the street from us. In my flustered state I hadn’t yet noticed they were all wearing the same shirt, just in different colors.

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“They are with the Snowball Express program. Children (and their parents) who lost a loved one in military service were flown here for free by American Airlines for fun weekend…Six Flags Amusement Park, Fort Worth Stockyards, and the parade.”

My mouth gaped open in disbelief…All those people lost a family member in military action?”

I found this news story:

“The Snowball Express is in the air, making the holidays brighter for military families who have lost loved ones in the War on Terror. 1700 children and spouses of fallen military heroes are being flown to Dallas/Fort Worth. …American Airlines flight crews are donating their time to make the trip possible.”

While complaining about inconvenient parking, over-crowded bleachers, sweating from the blankets I had carried in 80 degree weather, I looked across at the sea of faces who have a legitimate right to complain. In that moment the parade took on a whole new meaning.

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I stood with them saluting the flag. A symbol of what their loved one died to protect. Freedom to attend a parade in Dallas, Texas in the United States of America.

I cheered when they cheered for balloon carriers to spin the balloons. I wanted a good show more badly than ever…for them. Thank you Dallas Tap Dazzlers in sparkling costumes & cowboy hats for kicking your 65-year-old legs and amazing us with your energy & joy.

The biggest cheers came not for the Nickelodeon superstar or Batman, but for the Navy Seals marching with the “Carry the Load” organization. Created by two Navy Seals as a way to remember our veterans in a tangible way on Memorial Day. “It’s a life-changing journey for participants as they walk or run as long as they can in the 20-hour period (carrying heavy backpacks) . . . Like the service members they honor, they carry more than they have to, longer than they think they can.” 

Watching these bleachers full of those left behind, I see the joy on their faces as the “Carry the Load” banner passes. The salutes. The honor.

I had a high school teacher who once told me, “You never know the burden someone else is carrying.”

Focused on my comfort & convenience I never would have considered such enormous pain & suffering could exist in those sitting just across the street from me at a Christmas parade. Someone pointed it out to me. It was an intentional choice to see them. 

This Christmas season I have the opportunity to “bump” into a lot of new people/strangers. At the post office. Toys ‘R Us. The craft store. The grocery store. Visiting Santa. I want to try to stop and consider life from their perspective.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

If the Starbucks barista doesn’t give me eye contact & seems to need a strong cup of coffee, I don’t want to take it personally. I hope to pray for her (in the quiet of my mind). While checking out at the grocery store, I don’t want to just scroll through Facebook on my phone. But to look at the face of the cashier and ask him/her about a favorite Christmas memory or how he/she will spend the holidays.

In replacing “me” with “He”, I must consider the burdens of others. To see them the way God sees them.

What burden are you carrying today? Share below so I can pray for you (or feel free to email me: GodCenteredMom@gmail.com)

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Check out the “Light ’em Up” website. 100 ideas for random acts of kindness this holiday season. love it!