Jan 7, 2015

Polar opposites

We just celebrated New Years with both grandparents, and my husband's nephew and twin nieces who are all in high school.  Let this be known as the year I brought the cracker back.
By crackers I mean the unedible kind that are like a little popping firecracker that snaps and then has paper crowns, a junky prize and a groan-worthy joke inside.  The description here just made you all so jealous you wish you did this before your New Years dinner.  We used to do them every Christmas Eve growing up and since the grands were both going to be here for New Years, I bought them.

Actually, I forced it on the "newbies" (i.e. my husband's family).  The high schoolers didn't even roll their eyes which makes them rockstars.

 Also, let it be known that it's kind of a thing that you have to wear the paper crowns all night.  Never mind the flat hair, this is the thing that is done.  It's just done.  All the newbies fell in line.

Deep down in their soul, I know they found the tradition an excellent one, I'm sure of it.
A firecracker expression of love.

Anyhow, it was a yummy dinner and delightful family time.  My mother-in-law's cheesy potato casserole was top notch. It was sorta the overlap of weeks and families since I had just spent a week with my parents and siblings up at our family cabin over Christmas and the hubby's side came after that week and was staying until after New Years.

While our families have strikingly similar values and Tone and I were raised comfortably compatible, there is also quite a dichotomy as there always is when two people marry and then observe that my family is not quite like your family.

It can be quite a hybrid that develops as we learn both familiar and unfamiliar rhythms and make a new one.  Our kids make a new one too as we send those little beings off into the world to create their own paper crown cracker tradition things with their own newbie spouses. Best of luck, kiddos (eye rolls not permitted).

I was just talking to a friend over tea this morning about the dichotomy as we were discussing family values. While talking the two values laid themselves out as love languages, and I hadn't really seen it that way before.  The Stover tribe has a love language that is quite different from the Plumb tribe.
 And I realized that our love languages are complete polar opposites as they are expressed in our families and unfortunately, quite misunderstood in our first years of marriage (now happily reconciled though at twelve years in).  Let's look at how the two weeks contrasted shall we?  I felt so wrapped up in family love both weeks but it was expressed oh so differently.

My family's love language is quality time so that's what a vacation is all about.  So that means we wake up leisurely, drink copious amounts of coffee, have long and deep, and silly and irreverent discussions, and leave lots of time for play - be it sledding or board games. Just maybe, ok we do, us three sisters always take time for taking the weirdest photos and videos together that we possibly can and then blow up our various media feeds with them as if other people really cared about our sick addiction to dumb sister selfies.  We are all around the mature age of 30 give or take. Discussions run along such serious topics from church work, spiritual growth (my parents are pastors), the latest episode of The Walking Dead, and why my ham one Easter took three hours to cook.
Sidenote: That was freaking six years ago but if we have ham the point is always raised that I'm still the one who can't cook the ham.
Fine, I'll just stuff myself with someone else's ham cooking.
I like ham.

We work really hard, but it's just to get it out of the way so we can play or spend more time talking.  Summer vacations are no different than winter.  We just swap a boat at the lake for the sled run down the driveway, but we're just as slow getting out there on the lake as we are to the front driveway ten feet away. Usually, someone will casually make the remark, "You all ready to get out on the lake?" Then we load up like an ant hill that just got stepped on and scurry around like crazy people just so we can get out on the beach and the boat and lay around talking some more and laugh at the poor souls get launched off the boat tube.  Quality.
The one exception is my step-dad who clearly shares acts of service with the Plumb tribe.  Except he exists on the Stover side.  The poor man is the only one jumping up immediately in a bunch of exuberant talkers who will get to it in about 10 to 15 more minutes.  Bummer.
Glory be, these times nourish my soul like no other.  Somebody listens, laughs, and helps unravels my tangled web of thoughts with wise wisdom served up with a fresh dose of humor.

My husband's family would think we were a pack of time wasters if they went with us.  I mean, I assume.  They've politely never said that.  They operate on a love language of acts of service.  When I go to their house or they come to mine, they serve our family like crazy.  Let's just describe how their last visit went down.
They came and immediately went grocery shopping so that they could make us breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Every. Day.
What? What?
I had died and gone to heaven.  Heaven exists where I am not required to cook and it came to me last week.
It surely came to me.
I used to grocery shop before they came.  I have learned that they'd rather go with me once they arrive so they can help plan the menu.  And of course, this is strategic since their menu is usually awesome.

Let me break this down for you: my kids and hot breakfasts are practically strangers.  Breakfast is on them and I only fix lunch and dinner.  Cereal, toast, Eggo waffles, and oatmeal are our staples unless it's a holiday or a birthday or something worthy of the actual waffle maker we own, or even better, Daddy does it.  When the grandparents arrive there was waffles, bacon, ham and eggs.
I hit the jackpot in in-laws.

But wait, it gets better.
They tackle projects we just can't seem to get around to doing.  While they were here:
A car was fixed.  Theirs, but nonetheless...it took an afternoon.
Christmas was packed up and put in the attic.
The game closet was cleaned out.
The garage was rearranged and cleaned out.
Floor to ceiling shelves were installed in my laundry room and filled with things of mine piled in the garage I didn't have a place for.  This also involved repacking bins.
My chandelier I bought for the school room three months ago at a flea market was installed in all it's chippy glory.
My laundry was done.
Meals were all cooked and were delicious.  I mean I helped and all, but I didn't do the brunt of it.
Dishes were done.
But they are just so supportive of our space and needs.  My mother-in-law over the span of our marriage has probably helped me organize and think through every single space in my home.

Specifically to the maternal support in my life: My Momma for sorting out my emotional life, his Momma for helping me sort out my physical life. Though my momma can work hard too and his momma can listen and give smart advice too.


Here's the chippy flea market find for $25 up in the school room.  I dig it.
I'm going to add even more to this jackpot of parental love.  My Dad and his girlfriend spent Christmas Eve with us.  His love language has always been gifts.  Not always expensive, but gifts.  Gifts such as dinners out,  homemade wood working projects, little things he's picked up.  This year did not disappoint.  As they got in their truck to go, they were still flinging little things in my car.  I told him I wanted to pick up crocheting this year, and it juuuust so magically happens that his new hobby is making crochet hooks with carved handles.  A skein of yarn, some patterns and a new hook were still being flung in my car even as they drove away.
I already made myself some new slippers.  Gift utilized.  Love received.

I guess the great temptation would be to compare.  Can they not work hard, can they not relax, can they not give more time?  Of course they all can and do.  But they all shine in what they do best.
That comparison game would be just plain silly. 
Pish posh.
It would cheapen the gift.
Both are just so lovely and come from the heart.
I feel treasured and loved and lavished by all.  Lord help me, may I love my grown up children just as well.  This family blesses by loving lavishly in the best of all ways.  Lord help me, may I not compare and find fault with lavish gifts but love just as extravagantly in the best way I know how with such wonderful examples that have been given to me.

Cha. Ching.


  1. Jenny, you are spot here - you nailed all of us in your descriptions. You know, when I was younger, I always thought of myself as a Martha, but I always wanted to be a Mary. In actuality, my true self is more of a playful, always interacting (yet impeccably neat and organized of course) Mary, only now I feel guilty for not being more of a Martha. In your words - pish posh - I am who I am and thank you for saying I shine. I love you, Jenny, and thank you for noticing and appreciating the best in all of us. You shine too!

  2. Heaven is where I don't have to cook either. I like your silly sister selfies. And you helped me understand some of the blessings of love languages. Happy New Year!