Monday, December 10, 2012
Friday, December 7, 2012
What I don’t love about the holidays? The retail world trying to convince me to begin celebrating a good 3 months earlier. Not just Christmas, either: the grocery stores are putting out Halloween candy at the end of August (You just know that's last year’s candy, trying to get pushed out the door for the new stuff). There are sales on kitchenware, ingredients and fancy paper supplies in September for Thanksgiving. In October, the malls are putting up their fake Christmas trees and turning their background speaker music to horrible Christmas Muzak. In freaking October! I know we’re in the midst of an economic downturn or whatever finance-speak is for a horribly managed government budget, but come on. Does business really go up if you start celebrating in June?
I refuse. For me, Christmas doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving and I keep it that way, no matter what my kids think (though, when they call me the Christmas Grinch, it does break my heart a little). What about Halloween? There is so much more than trick-or-treating on one day. There are scary movie marathons to be watched - pumpkin patches to visit, where you go on scary hayrides and pick out a pumpkin to carve - scary stories to tell before bed - elaborate costumes to put together to freak out the small children of your neighborhood.
Why are we giving Thanksgiving short shrift? I love Thanksgiving – spending time with my family in a confined space, while I yell at the Lions playing on TV and the house smells like turkey and gravy – awesomeness. It really makes me miss my family in Michigan, but I like to think that we are yelling at the Lions and being disappointed together, despite the miles apart. We participate in food drives and donate clothing to shelters for the upcoming cold months. We talk about being thankful - Baz is usually thankful for trains, Tom is currently thankful for the Redskins.
I do not participate in Black Friday. I was an unwilling retail drone who had to sell and take returns for far too long to EVER even consider shopping within a crowd of insane women at 1am on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Plus (and again, I’m Mean Mommy to other mommies who will Do Anything For the Fruit of Their Womb), there isn’t anything my kids want that I would wake up at 1am, go wait in line and fist-fight with other women for. The only thing I would consider would be food. If we were living in some post-apocalyptic future, where Black Friday shopping has turned into a reality show for families and the Moms are the stars, because we have to fist-fight for tv ratings and food for our families - then yes, I would fight in the middle of the night for food. But thankfully, we are not reality-tv ready and we also can afford food.
The husband and I have agreed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for our Christmas-decorating time. We get in a full month of holiday revelry and then we take the decorations down the Saturday after New Year’s. This way, we can fully appreciate the Christmas letdown and bitter resentment of no holidays or celebrations in January.
On Saturday, we unload all of our boxes from the attic and take them down to the basement. Baz’s interest is primarily the train we set up around the tree – Belle loves the ornaments and finding just the right place to put them on the tree. I make hot chocolate and we put on a great Christmas movie – this year, we started off with “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” (I forgot how much cussing there is in that movie. WOW.) Tom gets the tree set up and the lights hooked up – Belle and I get all the ornaments out and make sure nothing is broken or missing a hook, etc. Baz pretends to help and shoots covetous looks at the train in its box. We hang up our stockings on the mantel over the fireplace and add all of our Christmas snow globes and stuffed animals and nutcracker figures.
The kids and I trim the tree – I take a couple of breaks in the middle to take pictures for our calendar/Christmas cards (Tom thinks our camera hates him – I’ll expand on that later). After all the ornaments and the star are on the tree, Tom and Baz set up the train on the floor, around the tree. When the tree is done and the train’s set up, we sit back and admire the view. We drink our hot chocolate and finish watching the movie, all together in the basement. We usually have something special for dinner (Takeout, oh yea!) and that’s our Saturday After Thanksgiving. One of my favorite Christmas traditions.
Another favorite tradition? Giving gifts to friends and family. This is not the same as shopping. I don’t like shopping. It begins so nice and ends in a guilt-ridden shamefest. I love GIFT-GIVING. I get excited about how much Baz would love this really cool Lego set to build and how he will play with it for hours and I’ll break my ankles stepping on them. I found several different craft sets for Belle and I can’t wait to see what she will come up with – hopefully it won’t involve drawing on the walls or furniture (yes, she’s 9 and still wants to draw on walls and furniture). Tom is more difficult – not that he’s not into anything; he is just particular in his choices. He’s what my friend Red calls a “spoiled, only-child of divorce.” Tom knows specifically what he wants and has specific plans for those things - if what you find is off by just a small detail, the whole thing still Does Not Work. But I can usually come up with something and, if anything, I like the challenge. Investigating new techy things or puzzle books or other stuff he’s into – it’s kind of like a mystery.
We’ll spend the weeks leading up to Christmas doing our favorite things: watching our favorite specials together, listening to Christmas music, going to the concert at the kids’ school, thinking up gifts we would like to get for friends (usually involving something baked or special hot chocolate mix), baking Christmas cookies and reading our favorite Christmas stories. I like to take the kids’ ice-skating – Tom refuses to join in, claiming he can’t skate. But they can’t skate, either, so his argument is worthless. I take turns helping them around the ice and when we get home, I tell him I can’t make dinner while lying down on a heating pad. We keep coming up with weird little traditions and I love it because I had no traditions growing up and now – I have traditions with my family. Excellent.
So why would I want to hurry things up? Make Christmas start earlier and last longer? People, we’re talking about quality, not quantity here. I can only take 1 month of Christmas. I have nothing more to give – I can’t be festive and cheery nonstop for 4 freakin’ months! I can only love and appreciate human existence on a regular basis for so long. The entire month of December nonstop is enough. So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – I wish you and your family a happy holiday of whatever you celebrate. Christianity, Judaism, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Retailism, Genericaa – I hope its fun and tradition-y. Just keep it in December, so I don’t shoot anyone.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
If you own a tv, read a newspaper or have access to a computer, then you’ll have noticed that the Olympics are going on right now. Yay, pride for your country. Yay, look at all the hot bodies – whoops. Yay, nationalism! (drooooool, swimmers and gymnasts). Go USA! (don’t think inappropriate thoughts about people younger than you! *smack*)
I love watching the different events, especially with my kids. We talk about the different things the athletes might do to prepare. Baz and Belle wonder if they can learn to do any of the gymnastics moves in their martial arts classes (they can both do the splits already). We cheer on the swimmers(no matter that the race happened a good six hours ago). The kids want me to try doing the splits. Yikes, look how out of shape I am. This is in no way attractive.
I have always been a fairly active person. I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys and my mother ran a day care out of our house – nice, quiet moments to myself were hard to find when I was younger. I didn’t care – it was great. It’s a childhood setting I wish for my own kids. We lived in a small but expansive neighborhood where I could ride my bike all over without worry – no one offered me candy to get into a van. I walked to school from kindergarten to senior year – not once kidnapped. I played sports all throughout middle and high school and continued to take gym class – never propositioned by a coach. I worked out in the school’s weight room with the other boys and random girls who also liked to exercise – never asked out by a lesbian. It’s a world only a Republican can dream of – except with multi-national people. Whoops.
Then I graduated high school and started college, moved out on my own and started really working (and really drinking/partying). Full-time job with full-time college hours, late nights studying and hanging out with friends completely took away any exercise time. I eventually moved away and while adjusting to a new city, I was working two jobs and taking a half schedule of classes. Marriage and kids and work and before I know it, not only have I not exercised on a regular basis for a good ten years, I have the forty pounds or so to prove it. Not to mention a false feeling of thinking my body is still 18. Yea, it’s not.
Funny story – when my daughter was 9 months old, I was invited to play a game on my company softball team. I was so excited – I grabbed all of my equipment that I’d kept and laced up my cleats. I felt fine during a light practice and warming up, but on my first at-bat, I pulled a muscle running to first. In my mind, I was shocked. “F*ck, I’m old,” I thought to myself. Well, oldER anyway. Out of shape as well.
The Olympics have been like a wonderful daydream. Watching all of these awesome athletes push their bodies to the limit doing something they love. They make it look so easy, I can just imagine doing it myself. It takes me away from the realism of how I can hardly swim one lap in a competition-size pool or how I mostly walked my first 5K. Ah, reality. The bitter slap in the face we all need sometimes.
Best of all, the Olympics can be motivating, too. Where are my running shoes? This fatty’s on the move.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I don't know why I'm surprised - aside from life getting busier, this is why I stopped. I didn't have the energy, the time, the dedication to take my writing further. Or that was the excuse I threw out. Yet I know a handful of people who do everything I do in my daily life (not exactly, but the same routines such as a job, family, house, cleaning, etc) and MORE and still devote time to writing or painting or playing/writing music. In some cases, they have busier lives but still make time for speaking engagements or a regular band schedule all across the area, their weekends ending when some of us are getting up for work.
So why do I let this excuse hold me back? Duh. It's been easier to just give up than to be scared and go somewhere unknown. The biggest fear? Just plain sucking at something I love(?) to do and having it amount to nothing. So I didn't even try. And here I am years later, still having flashes of inspiration here and there, only to get stuck at some point and stop. Overthinking, not enough doing.
I came to a conclusion the other day that I'm tired of being scared. My dream isn't to write for a national magazine or write The Great American Novel that will be published in 22 countries and in different languages and eventually be the subject of a TMZ article. My dream has always been to just write. To create stories, to capture a moment or a feeling in a poem, to be able to remember things for the future through writing. But I let myself get intimidated and think, "Hey. None of this is permanent. None of it will matter in the long run." How do I know? Maybe whatever I leave behind will inspire someone in the future. Or maybe my family will read what I had to say at certain times and they will be excited to know what our family was like at this time.
So I contacted a friend of mine, Jenny - we were classmates in high school in an online writing class - and we decided to be writing partners. Support for writer's block, easygoing but honest criticism for stories, someone to sound off with for ideas. We are on Day 3. This has been great so far - feeling like I have an outlet, really thinking about what I want to write. It's been great to see someone else have the same struggles and want to work on something they enjoy, too. Our current goal - to make it on a regular schedule for a month to start. I think we're making good progress so far. Thanks for reading my beginner, rambling crap and wish us luck. Smiley face.
Look, we discussed and bemoaned the entire thing. Neither Tom nor I really wanted her to have one. We drive her practically everywhere - she's with her grandmother when we're at work, not a day care - if she's with friends or the dive team, we know she is with trustworthy people. But we also have to be realistic - Belle is growing up. She's learning more responsibility and we are learning to give her more trust as she earns it. We also live in an area where you can't reasonably walk to a lot of places. If she's at a dive meet and her ride needs to leave for whatever reason and she can't get another person we know to bring her home, I want her to be able to contact us. I will be the first to admit it - I am anxious and overprotective. So, while I'm trying my best to loosen up, I still have my limits.
So, despite AT&T's best attempts to buy our daughter a smartphone (she wanted an iPhone - my husband and I just laughed), we found the most basic phone possible. It makes calls - it can send text messages (no phone out there is without that) and we can limit who can call her. We've set up basic boundaries - she can call or text myself, Tom or Grandma - and that's all its for. No games, no internet and definitely no Facebook (of which she doesn't have an account). Also, don't lose it. Unfortunately, Belle has inherited my absent-mindedness. Sad face.
Guess who has become a texting fiend? Wow. I get the appeal and its cute - remember when walkie-talkies were the coolest thing? You wished they could reach as far as the next block or down the street, so your best best friend and you could talk to each other when you were supposed to be asleep? Same thrill. Belle sends me messages at work and in the evening, she checks up on her grandmother.
I realize I've created the monster - I realize that this is the decision we made - but underneath the grumbling, I just can't help but laugh. Belle is so cute - she's growing up way too quickly. I already asked her to slow down - she grew two shoe sizes in response. Little butthead.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Last night was the first Saturday evening that our family was able to really enjoy in 2 weeks. 2 weeks prior, Tom was recovering from pneumonia and a week after that, I was recuperating from bronchitis. So everyone, especially our poor kids, was looking forward to having fun. We made plans with 3 other families we know from the kids’ martial arts classes – bowling at the local AMF lanes and dinner. Everyone had a blast – the adults making fun of each other’s scores, cheering on the kids when they got strikes and eating bad (but delicious) food. The blacklight bowling started at 9, a DJ started playing music and we finally left at 10:30. Everyone slept in, which means it was a really good time (no matter what, Baz usually wakes up between 6 and 7 am on the weekends). We were all looking forward to a quiet afternoon.
So after sleeping late and making breakfast (coffee!), we all started in on our household chores. The kids started their laundry and began cleaning their rooms (which is more like rearranging their stuff in different places to make it look like they cleaned). Tom was changing the sheets on everyone’s beds – I was in the kitchen. I’m in the middle of steam-mopping the kitchen floor when I heard a crash and a cry. Trying not to panic, I walked out to the living room. Baz was standing, bent over at the waist, in the glass portion of the coffee table. It looked like he was leaning his weight on the glass, trying to fix this toy train crane that he plays with and the glass broke beneath him (he is not a little boy in size).Taking a look at his arm after I freed him from the glass, he was already bleeding profusely. Thankfully, he was fairly calm – crying, but not hysterically. Baz kept telling me he was sorry for breaking the table. I got him into the bathroom to clean him up and knew right away he was going to need stitches. So after bandaging up his hand, we were on our way to the ER. Thankfully we don’t live far away.
We were taken to the pediatric ER and looked at fairly quickly. Baz was great – except for the shot to numb the laceration around his thumb, he was very cooperative and in a good mood. We talked, played a train game on my iPad and watched “Despicable Me” while waiting. The stitches were quick (he blew bubbles with a wonderful nurse throughout the process, as you can see above) and we were on our way shortly after that.
Maybe this is something I need to get used to. We were at the ER back in May for a case of croup Baz developed – Baz, myself and Belle at 2:30 in the morning – and the doctor who saw Baz then remembered him today. Good thing he’s a tough kid – but he’ll have plenty of opportunity with martial arts class 3 times a week.
Happy Sunday to you all.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
I am a reader - I have been for as long as I can remember. As soon as I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I started planning the books I would read to my child. I was very ambitious, in that eyes-wide-shut way to actual parenting life. I will read to my kids every night, no exceptions! Well, real life has bit me in the ass and laughed at me more than a few times. So while we haven't read every night for every bedtime of my kids' existence, there are also very few periods in between where it doesn't happen.
The book choices have run the gamut from reading the same book over and over for at least a week to a month - to asking them if we could read a particular storybook that I really enjoy and having it rejected. Sad face. We have discovered books that looked sketchy at first and turned out to be HI-LARIOUS (that's high-larious, for everyone outside the household) and other books with wonderful pictures that turned out to be weird or confusing. Mostly it has just been fun, silly cuddle time. Thankfully, I'm still Mommy; they appreciate and even laugh hysterically when I make silly voices or act out wild and crazy story climaxes.
This summer, with Baz learning to read and Belle well into chapter books, I decided we were going to do more than read our regular stack of picture books. I usually let them both choose one book and that's what I read before bed. Belle and I have read chapter books together, but Baz was never interested in sitting down for a chapter or two before now. So, going over all the possibilities we had, I asked them to pick out a longer chapter book that we would read before bed this summer. They chose "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone." I have read the series more than a few times and greatly enjoy it - so much that, I bought a set just for the kids because my own were so dog-eared.
It has been wonderful. We talk about what I read the night before to refresh our memories, I ask them questions, like what they think about Harry's aunt and uncle - "Harry's cousin turned into a pig?!?" - and they always want to know if I can read an extra chapter when I'm done. I have managed to interpret and bring out Hagrid's brogue (which my husband finds incredibly amusing), Professor McGonagall's strict tone and Hermione's shrill, bossy squeal. What's more astonishing is that they love it. They love it when I read to them. I was afraid this was something I would be forcing on them, that reading a book Mommy loves before bed would be boring. But even my puppy-in-boy-form Baz loves to lie down, snuggled up with his long-suffering stuffed dog Scooter and listen to me tell Harry's tale. I love it so so much.
I wish it were this easy to work with them both on reading practice. Anabelle is off the charts in reading at school, but doesn't like our help with talking about books or essays and questions for school. Baz is interested in learning to read, but is easily discouraged - he loves books, especially about trains, but would rather make up his own stories than read the words when they get difficult. I think the trick may be asking Baz to read to me.
I have a reading list a mile long for them - I hope they stay as excited as I am.