“Good Tidings” and “Good Riddance”!

Well, as 2012 comes to an end along with the holiday season, I am reflecting on the “good tidings” of the year. I am also wishing I’d been at the 6th annual “Good Riddance” Day Celebration in Times Square on Dec. 29th to cathartically “let go” of some of the bad stuff. Apparently, hundreds of people lined up in Times Square to do just that, as they shredded, smashed and trashed symbols of bad memories. “People want to get rid of all the bad stuff in their lives,” said Gary Winkler, a spokesman for the Times Square Alliance, which hosted the event. “Everyone has a personal story. It’s very cleansing for people. It’s a Times Square tradition.” It makes me wonder what items I would have taken…maybe next year, I’ll host my own. (Hey, we’ve got a big dumpster out back! Maybe by then Ellie will join us with her pacifier, and I could toss in my crutches – good riddance!)

But for now, let’s focus on the “good tidings”! This has been the longest blogging break I’ve ever taken, and it has been a tiding of great joy to just take a full load off from three of four of my jobs, to focus on my job of parenting and being with my family over the holidays. My brain has been much more relaxed, giving myself a complete break! But I have day-dreamed about sneaking away to the coffee shop to spend quiet mornings writing at the computer. I did get to do that one morning last weekend when Dustin was off, and that is when I began this post, though it have allowed myself some time off before coming back to it…

Last week as we counted down to Christmas, the kids and I lit the “joy” candle on our advent wreath. I explained “joy” as that feeling of gratitude and happiness that fills your heart so much that it spills over and spreads to others! I felt joy when I each of my children was placed in my arms for the very first time, when I saw MJ meet Ellie for the very first time, when they slept through the night for the very first time, when I took an uninterrupted shower for the very first time with young children entertaining themselves! I was not feeling it that Sunday following the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, but I tried to fake some joy for the sake of my own precious children. Their innocence is still in tact as they do not yet know that in our country, madmen have access to killing machines and sometimes strike down innocent people, even children. Their thoughts are still on Santa and Christmas cookies, jingle bells and baby Jesus. So last week I faked the joy for them, and I discovered joy as I saw the world through their eyes. Even as we pray for Christmas light to enter our dark world, the children around us remind us that “good tidings” of great Joy can not be stopped! They will continue to fill and heal our broken hearts and lives like little messages of love from God, and they shall be for all people. Here are some of the “good tidings” that have seeped into our family and our lives in recent Christmas weeks…we share them as “good tidings” instead of “good things” at the end of each day as we put the children into bed.

  • The children were delighted to see Daddy come home last Friday night. (He usually gets home after all of us are in bed :( But they were definitely full of JOY, especially with the promise of having Daddy around for 4 days straight! They did “rough and tumble play” in the playroom, did a Christmas “show and tell” for  Daddy, catching him up on all their new crafts and goodies from school. And Mommy ordered pizza, so we enjoyed a family dinner around our glowing advent wreath. Mommy relaxed while Daddy got the kids to bed. JOY to the world!

Reading “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”

  • I have gotten some much-needed “baby therapy” with my precious niece Poppy who is in town from Chicago! She brought her wonderful parents along, too. My heart is always filled with JOY when I get to be with my brother Jake, and his sweet family, including “Red” the hand puppet. (I love this rare stage before the child starts throwing tantrums or talking back – so refreshing!)

Teaching Poppy the sign for “light”.

Beffa and Poppy

Uncle Jake entertains with “Red” the puppet!

  • My babysitter, Miss Emily, gave me the most thoughtful gift…a book of pictures that she took of my kids. She got them to look cute in nice clothes, and even had E’s hair in pony tails, something I never accomplish. I teared up looking at their cuteness!

  • On the last days of school before the holidays, I had fun with the children in class, playing “Who Has the Donkey?” Such a simple game that has served me well for years! And fun with any small group of kiddos. I revealed the Christmas “treasures” that I had hidden in my Christmas box – all the characters from the nativity, plus a few like Santa and the Nutcracker. The children then put their hands behind their backs and close their eyes while we sing “Away in a Manger”, and I pass them out. They try to figure out by touch which treasure they have. Then we open eyes, keep them hidden, and I begin singing the questions on sol/mi, “Who has the donkey?”, etc. They respond with their best singing voices as they show us the treasure, “I have the donkey!” They love it, and want to play it over and over. It’s a great way to encourage them to share their solo singing voices, to find out if they can match pitch, and to have fun! I remember fondly leading this game with my little cousins 5 years ago when MJ was 8 mos. old sitting in my Aunt’s lap watching. With pacifier in his mouth, he hummed the pitches – first time I heard him sing!
  • As the children left my class, I gave them each special Christmas hugs, saying, “Merry Christmas, Child of God!” I got lots of sweet hugs and kisses back. It gives me great joy to spread joy to little children in my life. Before I closed up the classroom for the holiday break, I erased the precious white board decoration that MJ had drawn for the season…
  • On our first day of the holiday break, we ventured downtown with some friends to try out the Neiman Marcus tunnels. We got there just before they opened, and beat the crowds. The kids absolutely loved it, running from the sliding exit around the corner in little sock feet back to the entrance to do it over and over! Pure JOY! They were worn out by the time we said, “1 more time.” We followed it up with a not-so-joyful lunch in the NM cafe where the kids could NOT hold it together, or this Mommy.

Let’s do it again!

  • One December evening, I was excited to get a “Mommy” break and go to my school staff party. Earlier in the day, a few of the teachers told me that we were encouraged to wear our pj’s. So I showed up in my dark red velour granny nightgown and snowflake slippers. I had not gotten the memo that the pj-plan was off! Oh, well! I’m a good sport and was the comfiest one there. I provided good fodder for the improv comedy troupe that came to entertain us – JOY all around thanks to “pajama girl”!
  • My kids got into making the “homeless kits” for our car, and we hope to spread a little joy to some less fortunate people on street corners as we run errands this weekend. My little friend Allison (5) got to hand one to a man with her mommy, and he was so thankful. He said he really hoped there were new socks in there for him. As they drove away, sweet Allison insisted that they go buy some for him, and they loaded up. I love hearing these stories of our little children “catching” the spirit of giving! It’s even more contagious than a winter cold!

  • MJ made Mommy a new invention to help with the laundry.

Zooming the dirty clothes to the washing machine! (It has wheels!)

  • MJ brought home the dearest Christmas gift for us that he’s been busy making in his class at school, keeping it a secret from me the whole time. It’s a wooden nativity set that will be a treasure in our family for years to come! He was so proud to show each piece to me on the couch after school, and enjoyed setting it up in a prominent place in our living room for all to admire. I’m so thankful to his teachers for spending the time doing this with him! It has already been a source of great JOY for us, and will always remind me of this precious child that God has given to me to love and raise.

  • MJ made a “music machine” out of the drying rack, attaching many instruments from our collection to it with ribbon and tape for quick and easy access. Last Sunday evening, we had some friends over, and MJ and Ellie gave us a special concert. MJ had set up the seats, a pathway of cushions, refreshments, tickets – the whole shebang! Ellie agreed to be the head usher, collecting tickets, assisting with technical support on the CD player, serving snacks, and prepared to usher out any misbehaving guests during the concert. Our friends were such good sports, and only Dr. David got scolded my usher Ellie when he tried to sing along.

One-man Christmas band!

  • Later, as the frozen lasagna cooked in the oven, David took the kids for a slow ride around the neighborhood in the bed of his new truck to look at some Christmas lights. They ran into SANTA! One of our neighbors happened to have a real Santa sitting in a chair on their front yard. So, my kids got to sit in his lap and whisper their wishes. We checked that off our list – JOY! (Now let’s hope that Santa has them on his list.)

Slightly creepy, but he’ll do.

  • My kids tagged along for another “Mommy Manders” musical outreach project, spreading joy at a local nursing home. They helped to pass out cards and jingle bells. Though MJ spent much of the time rolling on the dirty floor instead of standing and singing with us, and Ellie spent the whole time with her paci in her mouth, dragging her big blankey, they witnessed the real joy that we brought to the residents there. And this habit of sharing joy and love with the elderly through music is becoming part of their regular childhood experience, as it was for their mommy. (Thankfully, there were other older and better-behaved children who did a great job singing!) One of the ladies in the memory care unit alternated saying “Ho, ho, ho” and blowing raspberries and kisses to us, but she appreciated it in her own way. And it was great to hear others in that area singing along with us. Again, it was great to see some of these kids “catching” the spirit of giving, as they grew more and more comfortable as we caroled around the the facility. By the end, some of them who had been shy at first, convinced their mom to stay a little longer so they could do a little more singing and hand out more cards to those residents they’d missed. What a great way to begin the final count-down to Christmas, with  perspective of sharing instead of receiving.

  • On Christmas Eve morning we continued the tradition of hosting some neighbors and family friends over for a family brunch and play-date. Though the Christmas pictionary and “Reindeer, Reindeer, Rudolph” (Christmas version of Duck, Duck, Goose) didn’t happen, everyone had a great time! We gathered around the piano for some favorite carols, we rang our jingle bells, I read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to a few of the kids, along with the silly mad lib version that my family put together last year…”Twas the Night Before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a kitty cat.”  So much fun!


  • Extra time with GareBear and Beffa and cousins – lots of noisy Joy!

  • A little extra time to relax with Daddy – cracking pecans on the porch, something Daddy remembers doing with his grandpa.

  • We all made it to the family Christmas Eve service at church – in nice clothes – on time – no major breakdowns or interruptions – and no one got burned during the candle-lit “Silent Night”! Not just a tiding of great joy, but a Christmas miracle! MJ and Ellie were “angels” for the nativity story (NOT type-cast!). Mommy forgot about how head-bands don’t fit on Ellie’s big-brained head, so she had a little trouble holding up her halo. (Oh well, we all struggle with that from time to time, don’t we…)


  • Christmas Eve night the kids had lots of fun preparing the magic reindeer food to scatter on our front lawn to attract Santa’s reindeer. We mixed dry rolled oats, sparkly cookie sprinkles (since the store was out of glitter), and some “joy”! MJ took this last magical ingredient very seriously, closed his eyes and made happy Christmas wishes before blowing into his ziploc baggie and shaking it up with a big grin on his face! So fun to watch them participate in the MAGIC of the season at this young age. What a tiding of great JOY and wonder for me!

Sprinkling the reindeer food near “Shiny” so it will catch the light.

Ellie really got into it, too.

  • After getting into our pj’s, we enjoyed a family dinner around our Advent wreath, with all the candles lit! Then the kiddos began a new and loving tradition – phone-caroling to their Oklahoma grandparents. They called, and just kept going and going, covering their vast repertoire of Christmas songs. What a wonderful gift!

Brother held the phone.

Ellie sang while snacking.

  • After setting out our notes and cookies for Santa, we snuggled on the couch and watched “The Nutcracker” with the San Francisco Ballet. I mentioned to MJ how beautiful the Snow Queen was, and he said, “Just like you.” Having someone tell me that I’m beautiful is a rare tiding of great joy, and even more special since it came from my little boy! (I think he mostly liked the feel of my velvet nightgown.)

MJ wanted Santa to know that he was being tracked by “Santa tracker” on the NORAD website.

  • Ellie got the unicorn from Santa! A big quiet smile of joy, along with lots of snuggles.

LOTS of Christmas morning JOY!

  • We had a lot of fun taking the kids to a nearby empty parking garage to try out their new bikes since it was a messy, rainy morning in Dallas.

  • The rained turned into snow, and we had a white Christmas! We had a family walk in the snow, and a family snowball fight! Followed by a fire in the fire place, and some quiet time with books, flashlights, and sleeping bags. (Book-ended by two extraordinary Christmas tantrums courtesy of 3-1/2-year-old Ellie, one ruining our lunch out at an Indian restaurant, one ruining our vision of a family game night. Oh, well….maybe next year.) Christmas morning went off without any tantrums, and that was definitely a tiding of great joy to all people in our house!

  • While surrounded by my mom’s extended family at the Lake House in New Braunfels, I was able to spend some valuable one on one time with each of my children. It makes a big difference when other people are doing the daily chores of cooking and cleaning up, and my number one job is to keep the rug rats entertained and out of the way! It was a joy to play Ellie’s new “Hello Kitty” memory game with her, to read Shell Silverstein poems to MJ, to decorate paper dolls, and play “Apples to Apples”, to sit down and color.
  • It was also a great joy to to watch my kids having fun with great uncles and aunts, to make memories with second cousins: MJ playing chess with cousin Ben, MJ learning to play hearts with Aunt Anna, Ellie out riding her scooter with Auntie Ann, and the greatest tiding of joy – the 3rd generation talent show! It’s becoming a new holiday tradition after last year’s premiere performance by the youngest generation. Cousin Jonathan (16) helps to hold the show together with his guitar playing, cousin Ben (10) does the behind-the-scenes set-up (tickets and seating), cousin Kate (8) charmed us with her choreographed “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, MJ sang “We Three Kings” in his Mickey Mouse pj’s, and even Ellie removed her pacifier to sing “Joy to the World” in her lovely little voice. But the number that brought down the house (a very friendly audience of relatives) was Jonathan’s performance of “I’ve Got You Babe” with teen brother James (13). We are already looking forward to next year! (It was the only activity that got everyone away from all their i-phones and i-pads and other devices!)

eating with cousin Kate

riding scooters by the lake house – always pure JOY!

quiet joy in the morning watching the sunrise over the lake.

Collecting for Spanish moss with Beffa at Heimat – more “joy” for our garage!

Singing carols around the piano at Heimat.

Wishing you “good tidings” and “good riddance” this New Year’s Eve! Happy New Year! Thanks for following my blog, my family, and my parenting adventure. I appreciate you. Let me know what kind of posts you most hope for from the “Mommy Manders” blog in the coming year….

Love, Lowry



  1. Melanie says:

    So many good things! Miss Emily’s gift…the Donkey game…MJ’s nativity. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Liza Lake says:

    Happy New Year! Thanks for the awesome post:-)