We have a tree up, with lights and breakables and strands of popcorn clinging to it. We have a nativity and garland on the mantle, and many years’ worth of accumulated paper snowflakes hanging from the ceiling.
We are festive. We are merry. We are…freezing.
It’s minus 22 out there tonight. I didn’t even send the kids out to play today, and we made forts and paintings and other messes instead. The temperature doesn’t really matter, because when it’s cold outside we can still keep it warm inside.
Unless we don’t. Unless there’s bickering and bossing and snapping and strife, and I assign consequences and replay lectures all day long. The temperature drops in our connections, and it takes lots of hugs and kisses and happy conversations to warm things up again.
It was warmer last week – outside, at least – and the kids were sledding and hollering on the hill behind us. And they know – they know, I tell you – about waiting to go down until the people at the bottom of the hill have moved out of the way so they don’t slam into them.
Especially if it’s the littlest sister at the bottom of the hill.
Especially if all five of her siblings are piled into one sled and bowling into her.
But no…there’s screaming and bossing and sheepish giggling and fuming and praise God, no blood, but mine is boiling. I have told you and told you…yada, yada. I wipe tears and give severe looks to older children and send them all off to play again.
Thirty seconds later, I peek out the window to check on everyone. Big brother and little brother are thrashing each other in the snowbank next to the sledding hill.
I knock fiercely on the kitchen window to get their attention. Three kids turn to look, and in my aggressive charades I point to the eldest, who has paused the friendly pummeling of his little brother. I motion STOP á la the Pointer Sisters, and he gives me a questioning look that says he can’t hear me.
I’m about to holler “I KNOW YOU CAN UNDERSTAND ME” through the glass, but the little brother – who I couldn’t see because he was standing perfectly behind the big brother – shoves him from behind, totally knocking him over. Faceplant in the snow.
I go down, too, hiding behind the kitchen sink and laughing hysterically. Sure, whatever – go for it, boys. If you can dish it, you can take it. Just don’t involve the baby sister.
A few minutes later they are back to sledding, going down the icy hill on their bellies, on their bottoms, on their boots. Actually, they start on their boots often, but end up on their backsides.
And after some years of experience, we’ve decided this is a no no, because sliding down rough, icy hills using expensive polyurethane thermal attire as sleds is poor stewardship of snowgear. It tends to create tears and shreds in the fabric.
The preferred method of repair is not, I’m sorry to say, my superior sewing skills. It is duct tape, Alaska chic.
Every winter we take inventory to see what fits, what can be grown into, and what is beyond even the appreciable scope of duct tape and must be replaced.
And we’ve talked about it. A lot. I have told you and told you…blah, blah, blah.
They finally come in from sledding and I assign consequences, and do my best to balance them with warm hugs and kisses. Extra chores to make up for the extra money we have to spend on more snowpants if they keep using them as toboggans. And, just to keep things sweet…they each owe mama a footrub, too. Like hugs for cold feet.
Warming up over tea, we talk about patches instead of replacements. We still have Iree’s old snowpants – the ones that were duct-taped on the rear from the last two years. There’s lots of usable material on them. Nice, thick, padded…hot pink…material.
Perfect. Festive, and merry.
I inform the boys that it will be used for patches on their snowpants, should patches become necessary.
And just to remind them how much I love them…because I have told them and told them so often but sometimes they just don’t listen...
…maybe I’ll even embroider a little something on those patches as a reminder: