The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity for us.
There are, of course, four small children that tend to keep us busy.
Four small children who like to ride around in a clothes basket while hollering, "Ready Rudolph? LET'S GO UP, UP AND AWAY!!"
And there's playing with all the new Christmas toys in our home.
There are the holiday activities like eating all the leftover cookies, ham, turkey and consuming vast quantities of egg nog before it expires. And enjoying elegant meals.
But mostly, we've been doing a whole lot of nothing except sitting near a warm fire and loving on our children.
As a family, we've been going to bed late and waking up late. Except today, we woke up early to see the Holiday Bowl parade. And what a grand parade it was. It has been dubbed America's largest balloon parade.
Although the balloons were great, what I enjoyed the most were all of the bands. The Marine Band was there. And the Navy Band. And there were the bands from the two schools that are playing in the Holiday Bowl, scheduled for tomorrow night.
There was the band from the University of Oregon (GO DUCKS!)
And the band from Oklahoma State University (GO COWBOYS!)
There were also bands from high schools across the United States.
You know, sometimes the funniest things set me off.
Like today, when I was watching all of the bands marching down Harbor Boulevard, I could feel a lump rise up in my throat. There were a few high schools from Pennsylvania. And a few more from Wisconsin. One from Georgia. Two from Arizona. Three from Illinois. Three from Texas. One from Kansas.
While I was watching all the kids marching past me, I was looking at the little people sitting on my lap and I thought it isn't going to be much longer before they are capable of walking down the street playing a tuba. Or a piccolo.
When I happened to spot one of the young men playing the drums with tears streaming down his face as he marched along, I could only imagine what this trip must mean for so many of them. I thought of all the hard work that was required for these high school students to have the opportunity to be a part of this event. The training. The fund raising. The practices. And although I'm sure that a few parents came along as chaperones, most of the parents did not. Instead, they were left behind, hoping that their children would be safe as they boarded a plane and flew away from home - for possibly the very first time.
(When I mentioned it to my husband, he thought maybe the drummer had stubbed his toe because teenage boys don't cry because they're away from home. But then I reminded him of the boxes of letters he wrote to HIS mother when he was away at camp and he quickly said, "LOOK! There's Mighty Mouse!")
From the parade, we went on a tour of the USS Midway. This is an aircraft carrier that was taken out of commission and retired from the US Naval Fleet and subsequently opened as a Maritime Museum. As we toured this city upon the water and learned about fighter jets and bomb decks, it was difficult for me to imagine our children in the military.
It is difficult for me to imagine them ever intentionally placing themselves in harms way.
But as we walked around the ship and learned about the people who have served and do serve this country, I am very thankful for the bravery of so many men and women. (And the mother's who let them go.)
Tonight when we came home, I spent four hours on the phone with my family. Add to that the five hours I have spent over the past two days. Talking with this one. And that one. And now my father is in the hospital again because he can't handle the stress.
I can't handle the stress.
So I look to our children and I am reminded that nothing is more important than love.
Things aren't important. People are important. And kindness and respect go a long way.
The length of time that we have on this planet isn't guaranteed. Life is short and days go fast. And if we allow it to happen, we can get so caught up in the minutiae that our lives become far too complex.
But if we allow ourselves to bask in the simpleness of life, we may tap in to joy that we never knew existed.
Note to self: I'll find a whole lot of joy (and more hours to sleep) if I can remember that next year, all the children really need for Christmas are some sturdy cardboard boxes.
Thus far, they've had a wonderful time both playing AND sleeping in them.