Thursday, January 25, 2018

Christmas Letter 2017

13 December 2017
Merry Christmas from our home, where as I write, Rebecca is ripping open other people’s presents under the tree (Sorry, Kendra!). This year in particular I have struggled to write a Christmas letter. It was a year where few noteworthy things happened: we didn’t take any exotic vacations, didn’t run any marathons (have we ever?), and mostly just adjusted to life as a family of 4. On reflecting, I think the most exciting thing that happened this year was the time Benjamin accidentally ran over the neighbor kid with his motorized Jeep. Somewhat exciting? Sure. Christmas letter worthy? No. And yet here I am, telling you about toddler hit and runs. Merry Christmas! Everybody is fine, by the way. But let this be a reminder that the suburbs have their own dangers.
Basically it was a year of small things. Rebecca was an infant when 2017 began, and my motto repeatedly during the difficult early months was “keep your head down.” What I meant was, just focus on the small, day-to-day tasks in front of you and try to take life in small pieces. If I became too concerned with the big picture—when will I ever sleep again? How many more months until this child can eat solid foods? When will I ever find a normal life rhythm again?—I felt very overwhelmed. Approaching life myopically was the best option. But the result was that in looking back the year also felt small, uneventful, and much of my memories are of the mundane: diapers, dishes, picking up 100 Ziploc sandwich bags from the floor every day (emptying drawers being a favorite pastime of Rebecca’s). But as anyone with small kids knows, the challenge is to find joy in the simple tasks and treasure in the ordinary.    
So in that spirit, let me share with you some of the small treasures and everyday snapshots I do remember of the year:
-Benjamin seated on the breakfast bench next to Andrew every single weekday morning while Andrew takes an 8:00 a.m. work call. Later, I would overhear Benjamin on his toy phone saying phrases like “Elastic Search Plug-In.”
-Rebecca looking wide-eyed (a euphemism for unbelievably startled) at every single person she saw for the first 6 months of her life.
-Staying at a house along the Klickitat River with my family over the summer. Coming back to the house after an afternoon fishing and seeing Benjamin running in circles in the front yard with my mom, the sun setting, bubbles trailing from the wand in his hand.  
-Finally potty training Benjamin. Hearing him walk down the stairs 5 times a day yelling, “Momma! I pottied!” The excitement and inflection are the exact same every time.
-Enjoying the process but attempting to no avail to perfect my green curry recipe so that I can stop pining for the Thai restaurant down the street. Why is it so much better than mine? Legitimately asking.
-Andrew waking up perfectly lucid and coherent from knee surgery. No embarrassing viral videos to be had.
-So many late nights with Rebecca, walking her around the darkness of her room, simultaneously trying to feel the shape and weight of her body so that I could impress it on my heart and mind for when she would be too big to hold like this, and also desperately, desperately wanting to put her down and go to sleep.
-Hiking the base of Mount Hood with Elizabeth and Jonathan, and my in-laws Rich and Cindy, in which my 60-year-old in-laws were out of sight and up the mountain in a matter of minutes while the rest of us younger ones complained about things like altitude and inclines and knee pain, and slowly trudged along.
-July, tying the fishing lines my dad taught me over and over again with the same lure, hoping the muscle memory would last me the rest of my life. Curious if it has even lasted me through the winter…
-Finally convincing Andrew to buy a grill this summer, which we used for basically every summer dinner: grilled pesto pizza, grilled chicken with homemade barbecue sauce, vegetable kebabs. How have we lived the last 5 years without one?
-Andrew turning the lock in the door at the end of the day, so relieved to see him and glad he is finally home and the parent-to-child ratio is reset.
-Every single morning I used my Keurig and thought of all my Oregon coffee snob friends judging me. Contentedly sighing as I felt not one ounce of regret at my instant hot coffee.
-Long evenings talking to Rich and Cindy when they stayed with us for the month of August.
-Benjamin playing his ukulele every day, and still left-handed. He has had to start learning chords upside down since he refuses to switch. His latest hits include “Pinecone Song” and “Rockout Song.”
-Rebecca’s “crawl,” which is both endearing and terrifying. She drags her body by doing the splits and then folds her left leg under her, flopping forward. The rhythm is unsettling, and as my brother pointed out, looks like something from Resident Evil.
-Accompanying Andrew on a quick work trip to North Carolina and basking in 5 hours of uninterrupted quality time on the plane, followed by the perfect southern pulled pork dinner.
-Rebecca aggressively cuddling her stuffed kitty upon every reunion at night in her crib. And Benjamin petting his stuffed puppy’s ears so much it eventually tore a hole in one of them. I think these stuffed animals will be treasures of mine forever when the kids are done with them—a small part to represent the whole of the preciousness of childhood.
Let me leave you with one last Christmas snapshot. Benjamin is practicing to sing with the other preschool kids for our Christmas Eve service. They are going to perform “Go, Tell it on the Mountain.” Currently he’s strumming his ukulele and mixing up the words a bit, but he has this verse memorized: “Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born / And brought us God’s salvation that blessed Christmas morn.” I’m reminded that Christ Himself was born into the lowly and commonplace. He is always able to meet us where we are and transform our everyday elements, our bread and butter, into a gracious feast. I think he’s done that with me this past year—in the mundane, in the drudgery of seemingly meaningless and never-ending tasks, in the toil of routine, He has given us so much beauty in these “small” days. My mind may not remember the big events of 2017, but my heart will certainly remember its sweetness.
Merry Christmas,

The Browns

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