Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas: a thank you note

They were good kids this year.
It's no secret that we're struggling financially this year. Aside from our own personal day-to-day money struggles, this year we've endured two pay cuts, a job loss, and an errant paycheck. Even without all that drama, I'm a part-time teacher and a writer, for Benjamin's sake. Money is always tight. And Cole has a job with great health insurance (I'm not kidding. It's like he works for the military), but the whole university on a raise-freeze, and there's no opportunities for advancement.

On top of all that we have been trying to eliminate debt. We sold a car to avoid the payment and now spend much of our time bumming rides off our friends--who, I'm sure given a little more time being forced to sit in a vehicle with us during the 20 minute commute, will be soon cured of their toleration for us.

The truth is we've spent several years in a financial rut, and are probably secretly known by our friends and family members as "the charity cases". Even our yard was donated by my mother. And when the washer broke two weeks ago (a 3rd hand washer that I bought off of my sister for a reduced reduced price almost a decade ago), I did wash at my mom's house until luckily and thankfully my grandmother offered to pay for the repairs. One friend bought me an entire Florida vacation for next month, and another offered to pay for a week's worth of hotel costs for a vacation in March. (I turned it down because the plane ticket was too much.) My brother-in-law bought presents for my kids when he heard of our struggles and my colleague bought me a pedicure soak kit (and Lords of Mary Kay know I need it). Clearly, I'm blessed with an awesome family and some kick-ass friends.

My miracle baby. True story.
Anyway, we've had hard Christmases before, but not like this one. My present budget for each of the kids was cut to 1/4 of what I usually spend each year, which wasn't a whole lot to begin with. I found some second-hand stuff, and Cole and I barely got anything for ourselves, instead pushing our funds into the kids' budget. Then when one of my paychecks went AWOL, I thought we were definitely screwed.


Last week we discovered that our family was chosen to be the recipients of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The first day we found a bag of pears on the doorstep. The next day at bag of Dove chocolates and Turtle bars. Each day something fun showed up on our doorstep. The children and I eagerly anticipate that nightly doorbell chime. While the kids bolt to the door and Gavin tries desperately to twist the deadbolt open, I always take my time, because I want our secret Santas to have a chance to get away. I don't want to ruin their surprise.

Yes, he is wearing a batman shirt over his superman shirt. That's how we roll, folks.
I don't know if the family helping us has any intentions of revealing their identity, but if they don't, I need them to know how grateful we are.

Every time I give the kids a bath and pour a little of the apple-scented bubble bath from the Seventh Day of Christmas (swans-a-swimming) and watch their little faces light up at the cascades of bubbles or see them make bubble-beards and say "HO HO HO", my heart swells with gratitude.

Every time I pour milk into Elayna's oatmeal or fill Gavin's sippy cup with day 8's Maids-a-Milking gallon of skim milk, I'm reminded of how blessed we are to have people in our lives who care. Who noticed our suffering and literally provided the milk of human kindness.

Christmas play pose.
And as I hid away some of the goodies and tucked the hula hoop away before the kids saw it, I'm thankful to have something to fill stockings with or one more thing to put under the tree on Christmas Eve for my kids. My Christmas angels gave us a little more Christmas this year.

The spirit of Christmas is about giving, after all. I don't know if my kids appreciate it as much as they should. I mean they didn't get teary-eyed at the bag of 5 golden doughnuts or choke up at the sight of 4 calling holiday Peeps like I did, but I'll teach them to see the beauty in giving.

My biggest wish of all this season is not for new shoes.
Or a phone that my students won't make fun of because of because it predates MTV.
Or even that my kids aren't disappointed on Christmas.

Thank you and Merry Christmas! Love, the Smitheys
My biggest wish of all is that one day I can be in a position to give the way our Twelve Days of Christmas family gave to us this year. I hope we can change someone's life too.

Thank you so much.

Rena and Family

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