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As I write this, the nation is focused on Washington, D.C., and the inauguration of Barack Obama. However, my attention is eight or so miles away in Alexandria, Va.
My granddaughter, Caroline, turns 7 on Jan. 21.
While her festivities aren't on the scale of an inaugural gala, on Sunday, Jan. 25, she and six of her friends are having a snowflake party. My daughter, Alison, has been planning it for months.
The party agenda includes: making marshmallow snowmen with red licorice for scarves, mini M&Ms for the buttons and carrot-shaped candy for noses; making snowflake bracelets; decorating snowflake sugar cookies with blue icing and snowflake sprinkles and playing pin the carrot nose on the snowman.
The menu: cheese shaped like snowflakes and snowflake crackers, hot chocolate, hot cider and popcorn. The cakes - chocolate with chocolate icing and a white snowflake stenciled on top and yellow cake with white icing and a blue sugar snowflake stenciled on top.
Each girl gets a goody bag with a scarf, mittens, hat, snowflake tattoo, snowflake pencil, snowflake stickers, snowman lollipop and a packet of hot chocolate to bring home.
I told her she has officially become one of those mothers other mothers hate.
Not really, of course. She's actually quite timid and unsure. Recently, she's started a blog, The Neurotic Housewife. (Read it at http://neuroticalison.blogspot.com) I'm biased, but I think it's clever.
Alison said the party is a new endeavor for her. Usually she opts for the Chuck E. Cheese/Bounce House/Build-A-Bear parties where all she has to do is show up with a credit card. She especially likes the places that throw in a teenage helper so she can hang back and take pictures to send Grandma.
For weeks she has been calling me with party detail updates, and I've caught her excitement. I'm excited to see how much pleasure she's getting out of being a mom.
I remember the day Caroline was born. Alison called me from the hospital in Arizona. She had had an epidural and wasn't in any pain and we chatted about the episode of Trading Spaces she was watching until it was time for her to deliver.
"Bye, Mom. Gotta go have the kid. Call you later," she had said.
We're not big on sentimental mush in our family.
From that moment she changed from being my child to being a fellow mom, and over these past seven years she has called often to tell me about how messy/noisy/annoying/inconvenient kids are.
Yep, yep. All of the above and then some, I tell her, and we commiserate together.
She doesn't especially love kids (except for her own), but because she loves her own, she's the neighborhood mom who passes out snacks and juice and lets a gang of 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds use her back porch as the spy club headquarters and her freezer for "frozen dirt" experiments.
She helps in Caroline's first grade class on Thursdays and mostly thinks what she does isn't grand or important, but it is. It's the life God has planned for her, at least for now. She quit college 12 years ago to get married, and maybe she'll go back someday or maybe she won't. A college degree doesn't guarantee a fulfilled life and God doesn't require one to accomplish his purposes.
This is a historic week in the history of our nation. We have our first black president. We're celebrating at least part of the dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned - and my daughter is giving my granddaughter a birthday party.
Some may think a significant life has to come with military honors and pomp, solemnity and ceremony, but I don't. I think God agrees.
Jesus told his followers that God cares about sparrows. He praised the pennies offered by a poor widow, talked about faith the size of a mustard seed, the growth potential of a kernel of wheat. He chose a puny shepherd boy to be king of Israel.
God seems to delight in what most consider small stuff and he yawns at what we think is grand and important. I think he takes great pleasure in moms who fold towels and show kids how to stab cheese chunks with fancy toothpicks and plan snowflake parties for 7-year-old girls.
It's not lofty, but it's heavenly. It's not glamorous, but it's eternal. Other than an hour of quiet or a box of chocolate, what more can any mom want?