We are a bit short on glamour this year.

All four of our birthdays are in December—the Pirate’s is today!—and that means a level of general feverishness descends on my psyche that I try to keep from turning into total hysteria.

Currently, my holiday is epitomized by the following: I find myself tearing up while singing “Tender Tennessee Christmas” as loudly as possible while the fake fireplace DVD crackles from the television. Pine scented candles. Plastic tree. Toddler trenches.

Today, I gifted my husband with “Bacon Soap.” That probably sums things up for you.

This is not the first year the glamour-meter has been low.

At this very time three years ago, I was finishing my Christmas shopping at the Mission Valley Target in San Diego, and I was GREAT with child(ren). So great, in fact, that when I came back out to my car with my purchases, and a car had pulled into the spot next to mine, I could not—no matter how many different directions I maneuvered—squeeze my substantial self into the gap between my car and theirs.

A few weeks previously the same situation had happened, and I was able to open the back of the car and crawl through the entire length of our vehicle into the driver’s seat. But those days were long gone.

My only option was to wait until a seemingly kindhearted stranger crossed my path and ask her if she would be willing to help me out of a tight spot, literally. Such a woman presented herself, and I handed over my keys to someone I had not known 5 seconds earlier, and asked her if she would pull out my car. “Well isn’t this what Christmas is all about?” she said to me through such deeply empathetic eyes, I knew I must have actually looked even more rotund than the world’s fattest Santa stuffed with two oversized elves.

A couple of weeks later, on December 23, the elves arrived. All 7 lbs 7oz (Luke) and 7 lbs 9oz (Lane) of them. Full of all kinds of life.

Sometimes—and I am learning this slowly and painstakingly—beauty outshines glamour.

A few nights ago, we attended a Christmas tree lighting event on base, complete with live nativity featuring an authentic Middle Eastern camel. All Lane wanted from this evening was to get to touch baby Jesus. So we made our way over to the nativity and she was pushing her way into the scene, wanting to get a better look at baby Jesus’ face.

Mary was played by a young pre-teen girl with braces, and she held a white gym towel all wadded up in her lap with no real sign of a baby inside the bundle. Joseph stood over them, looking like he could be Mary’s father. The camel swatted excretion from his tail onto bystanders.

Lane kept pulling Steve’s hand, wanting to actually enter the nativity so she could touch the baby. Mary laughed uncomfortably not really knowing what to do. But Joseph bent down on one knee and motioned to Lane to come toward them. “You can touch Jesus,” he told Lane. And she reached out and patted the white towel like it was the most beautiful baby she had ever seen.

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