Monthly Archives: December 2007

The Night Before


The kids are asleep, and Santa has come. Even though I thought there wasn’t much in the way of gifts this year, you wouldn’t know it from looking at our tree. There is a LOT of stuff under there!! I hope the kids are excited.

But today ranks in the top 5 of stressful days for me. One, my mother is here. Having her here stresses me out in the best of times. The kids, who have a so-so relationship with her (better now that they are a little older), have been on speed since she got here yesterday, and that is stressing me out. Then yesterday we discovered my car’s battery was dead. No warning, just died, caput. We didn’t deal with it till today, when I was going to jump it using my mother’s car. But it was so dead, we couldn’t even get it in gear to get it in neutral, which kinda scares me a little. I went over to a neighbor I barely know. We nod hello and will chat for a moment or two, but we are not “friends”. And it was Christmas Eve and all – I felt bad taking him away from his family. But he took out my dead battery so I could take it down to Pep Boys to buy a new one, and then installed my new one. Voila! I can drive again! Thank you Neighbor Dave!

Later, my best friend called – her mother passed away at 5:30 this morning from cancer. We just saw her at Thanksgiving and she seemed tired, but well.  It happened really, so fast. Having lost a father and sister to cancer, I unfortunatey know a thing or two about this, but in my own family’s cases, it seemed much more drawn out. Either way, we are sad. Mary was a lovely woman and she will be dearly missed.

I know there is more, but I am just too tired to think about it. I hate to post something so self-involved on Christmas Eve, but there you have it. Tomorrow should be a good day, though I expect it will be no less exhausting.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

A Day Early…

OK, it wasn’t till about 2 hours after I posted my last “Thirteen for Thursday” post that I realized it was actually Wednesday. I feel awfully silly. I had Monday off, and so I shortened the week even more in my mind. I have no idea why I do that, but it’s not the first time.

Anyway, enjoy my Thursday meme on Wednesday – maybe I should try a Haiku Friday today, eh?

Nah….time to get back on track!  More later — maybe!

Thirteen for Thursday

Hoo, here we go, Thursday again! The Thursday before Christmas, no less! So, can you stand one more Christmas theme? OK, you know what, I can’t promise this will be the last Christmas theme. But I can promise it will be the last one on a Thursday….at least till next year!

So this week I’m listing 13 things my kids are getting for Christmas. K will be 7 in January, and B will be 4 in February, for those keeping track at home.

1. A toy playhouse. It’s basically a pop-up tent. This will be the “Santa” gift this year, meaning it will be unwrapped and set up when they come downstairs. They had so much fun playing in a similar (much more expensive Pottery Barn version) at a friends’ house, and I think they will really enjoy it. If not, it was only $15. Hey, Santa has a budget too.

2. Fleece sweatshirts. We live in New England. You can never have enough of these.

3. Red Sox World Series T-shirts. Both girls are New England sports fans (Red Sox and Patriots), and B wants Big Papi (David Ortiz) to be her brother.

4. Toothbrushes. The battery-operated kind. B loves Dora, and K is getting Shrek.

5. Chocolate bears. These were sold as a fund raiser at K’s school.

6. High School Musical sweatshirt. That one is for K.

7. Disney pins. We visited Disneyworld this summer – B’s first trip, and K’s first riding a roller coaster. Their pins reflect their respective “firsts” on the trip.

8. An ornament. My mother started this tradition with me, giving me an ornament every year so when I moved out I’d have ornaments with memories to start my own tree. I’m doing the same with my girls.

9. Books. I love the Scholastic Book program offered through both girls’ schools. Quality books for cheap prices. I got a few Newberry Award winners for K, and some new stories for B.

10. Mancala. I have never played this game, but K is apparently quite good at it. She can teach me, and then we shall see!

11.  LeapPad cartridges. We have the “My First Leap Pad” and the next one up so I got each kid a Ratatouille cartridge appropriate for their game.

12.  Color Wonder coloring kit. B loves to color, but boy, can she make a mess! These things are clear, except on their special paper. Going for the win-win here!

13. Pajamas. This will be their one Christmas Eve gift. My mother started it one year when she said she got sick of seeing photos of my sister and me in ratty pajamas. I like the idea of new jammies.

While I do have all receipts, I haven’t added them up so have no idea how much I’ve spent this year.

So, what are your kids getting? And how much do you spend, if you keep track?

Managing the Wow’s

The “Wow!” Factor.

That’s what my kids have experienced on Christmas morning. In our family, we don’t put any gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve, after the kids are in bed. This helps make it seem like so much more, rather than the gradual accumulation as things are wrapped. The “Santa” gift is something big and unwrapped. This also helps with “Wow!” as they first come downstairs. The stocking is also from Santa, but everything else is from me or whoever else.

This will be K’s 6th Christmas, and only B’s second (though she is almost 4). B is still too young and inexperienced with the holiday to notice a reduction in the loot, but K is.  Last year most of the gifts they got didn’t even get put away until February (we have 2 winter birthdays too!), so this year I am making a conscious effort to reduce “stuff”. Unfortunately, the kids are too young to appreciate anything else. I’d much rather take a trip or spend our money on a museum membership or something else where we could make memories together, but that’s not so exciting to unwrap.

Adding to this, there are three sets of grandparents and my ex (who only has a relationship with K) asking me for gift ideas. This annoys me on at least two levels. First, coming up with ideas of what to buy is, to me, the hard part of gift giving. So I resent when others ask me to do this hard work for them. We’re talking 5-6 different sets of people here! And asking for money for their college fund falls on deaf ears, with the exception of my mother, who does make that her big gift (and she’s quite generous with it too — too bad the kids don’t appreciate this yet either). And if you don’t know them well enough to come up with your own ideas….

So how do you manage to control the volume of “stuff” with young children? And how do you handle when others as you for gift ideas?

Snow Angry

This morning K and I had a fight. When I dropped her off at school, she was very angry with me. She wouldn’t speak to me or even look at me.

A little background: we got about 8 inches of new snow  last night. I can remember loving new snow. It’s not quite so charming when you’re the one responsible for driving in it and removing it. So when we got up this morning my main mission was to shovel our driveway. I made sure the girls got dressed and would get breakfast, then let them pick from several pre-approved, pre-recorded shows to watch while I proceeded to add another notch to the chiropractor’s belt (if I had one, anyway).

Shoveling took me about an hour. Luckily for me, it was a light snow, but there was still a lot of it. I was wet with both snow and sweat when I came back inside, about 15 minutes before we needed to leave to get K to school (and then B, and then me to work!). There were cereal bar wrappers all over the couch, no one’s hair was combed and feet had socks, but no shoes. I went into commando mode, barking out things that needed to be done. Teeth weren’t brushed either, and K still had a backpack to pack. And she went into la-la-land…..I took B upstairs to brush her teeth, then I changed into dry clothes and made myself slightly more presentable. When I got back downstairs, K was still lolly-gagging in the bathroom, never having even taken the cap off the toothpaste.

I started to get a wee bit angry.

We did make it out of the house, but there was a lot of yelling and frustration on my part. While I will admit I maybe shouldn’t have belabored everything quite as much as I did, I’m still perplexed by her complete withdrawal from the tasks at hand, none of which are any different than what we do every other day of the week. I kept reminding her that she is almost 7 years old (next month!).

When I dropped her off at school she would not meet my eyes, and proudly, angrily marched into the building, without a smile, wave or blown kiss. It hurt, but I knew she was upset, and I can’t say she didn’t have some right to it.

I thought about her all day.

When I picked her up at the after school program today she said, “When I was walking down the hall to my classroom I had a bad thought. I thought, what if I never see you again and the last feeling I had was to be angry at you?” The tears leapt to my eyes – I think I wiped them away before she saw.

Oh, baby, I’m sorry about this morning too. Let’s make it a great night. And it was.

Thirteen for Thursday

I don’t know if this meme is for every Thursday, or only for those that fall on the 13th of the month, but either way, I guess today is a great day!

Inspired by Janet, and in the spirit of the season, I’m trying my own hand at my 13 favorite Christmas songs. But first, a little explanation: in general, I am not a fan of holiday music. While this seems grinch-like (see previous post!), it’s just that most of it is either too overtly religious to me, or cloyingly sweet. Or juvenile. However, there are a few exceptions, which I think will turn out to be covers by more modern artists. But since I’ll be writing this on the fly, let’s see what comes up!

In no particular order:

1. Mele Kalikamaka, by Jimmy Buffett. It’s rocky, it’s tropical, it’s fun.

2. Hallelujah He is Born, by Sawyer Brown. This is a notable exception to my general non-preference for religious songs. I just love the tune of this one.

3. Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, by Dr. Elmo. I actually had to look up who sang that one. I can’t help it, it’s funny.

4. Jingle Bell Rock, by anyone. While not technically a Christmas song (it’s more a winter song), it’s rocky and fun (see a pattern here?)

5. Mary’s Boy Child, by Boney M. Another religious song, but I just like it. It’s a unique take on a song with this much biblical reference and for that reason, it makes my list.

6. Do You Hear What I Hear? Just like it

7. When Christmas Comes to Town, by Matthew Hall and Megan Moore. This is on the sound track for “The Polar Express”, which K learned to sing from listening to the CD at age 4. She sings it beautifully, as do Matt and Megan. It’s really a gorgeous song. The CD is worth the price for this song alone.

8. Little Drummer Boy. How can you not love all those “Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum”‘s??

9. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, by Brenda Lee. Another rocky, fun song (the title even gives it away!)

10. Belleau Wood, by Garth Brooks. This is based on an actual event during World War I, and the song just touches me.

11. Santa Baby, Madonna. Not sure why I’m putting this here, since it’s way too s e x y for a holiday song. But I’m starting to scrape the bottom of my favorite barrel here.

12. Silent Night. How can I not include this one? The history alone makes it.

13. Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t be Late), by Alvin and the Chipmunks. This one just has great memories associated with it. When I was in college this would get played at every party our group of friends threw/attended, no matter what time of year, and I just associate it with fun, friends and being a little buzzed. Or sometimes a lot. But definitely always fun!

OK, this list was a little hard to do, but I liked the concept. Maybe I’ll try it again next Thursday with a different theme.

I Think I am the Grinch

Today I was breezing through the kitchen at work, intent on refilling my water and on my way back to my desk to bury myself in more work. In the kitchen heating up her lunch was a co-worker who I used to work with closely, but hadn’t seen in awhile, and she wanted to make small talk. She asked me if I was looking forward to the holidays. Rather than giving the expected answer (which I wish I would have done, although then I wouldn’t have anything to blog about!), I said, “NO! It’s such a stressful time!”

Her response to me made me feel more guilty. She said, “Oh, but I’m looking forward to spending time with my family!”  I thought perhaps she meant family members from out of town that she may not see often, but she said, no, with her husband and children, not having to go anywhere, to just sit around and be together.

And I truly felt scrooge-ish with my attitude. It’s not that I don’t love my children, or want to spend time with them. But seriously, spending lots of unstructured time with them is long and boring, for all of us. And add a holiday like Christmas with all the EXPECTATIONS, and it’s enough to make me want to move to Australia. And I haven’t even gotten into the baggage that will come along with my mother’s visit.

I’ve had lots of other blog topics rattling in my head the last few days, but suddenly my mind is blank.

Odds and Ends (mostly odd!)

My mother just got back from a three week trip to China. As she was recounting her trip to me, she said “I didn’t even see any Chinese people there. I think because I have Chinese grandchildren and I just don’t see them as different.”  [My two girls were born in China]  I can’t even begin to tell you how offensive I find this! While I certainly am not consciously thinking “race race race” in my daily dealings with my children, I also don’t deny it. They ARE Chinese. And no one would ever look at them and not see it! My mother scares me in that she is not willing to even acknowledge this in her own family.

On a related note, we were visiting at a family who I know casually today. K is friends with their daughter, and B and I were just hanging out for a few. I said something to B and the dad misheard me and thought I had spoken in Chinese. He said he was very impressed that I had learned Chinese. We got that cleared up (sadly, I only know a few words), but he then asked me, in all seriousness, if  B was “born knowing Chinese.” To which I replied, “were you born knowing English?”

And I just have to mention my 13-0 Patriots who showed a tremendous effort against the Steelers today. I’m still on an emotional high!

Holiday Traditions

How do you celebrate the holidays? And let’s be frank here, by holidays, I am mostly talking about Christmas.

I am not a religious person, and my kids have never been inside a church. No, that’s not true – my oldest and I did attend a service with friends three years ago. It’s not that I’m against it all, I just don’t see the point. Actually, I can feel myself going down a rabbit hole that I’m not ready to go down, so I’ll stop that line right now. Suffice to say, our family celebrates Christmas, but in a secular way. And since history tells us Christmas is probably more a pagan celebration of the winter solstice than the anniversary of the birth of the eponymous man, I don’t even feel hypocritical in doing this.

Anyhoo, we are still inventing our holiday traditions in our family. We do keep an Advent calendar. I bought it several years ago and expect to pass it down to one of my children. It’s a wooden box with doors, and within the doors are 24 drawers. I fill each one with two little candies (chocolate kisses and that sort of thing). Each day the girls take turns opening the drawers. This year K is opening the odd numbered drawers and B is opening the even ones. But there are two candies in each, so they both get a prize every night. I must confess that there are nights it gets forgotten in the swirl of activities in our brief time between the end of work and bedtime, but we make up for it the next night. Or the next.

Last year K learned a lot about Hanukkah in Kindergarten, and wanted to celebrate it at home. So this year I bought a small mennorah, candles and even dreidles for the girls to play with. I realize we are now on the 4th night of Hanukkah, and regret to say we have not yet lit any candles (see earlier comment regarding swirl of activities).  But we’ll catch up tonight. Not being Jewish, I think we’ll offer up some things we are thankful for, or things we’d like to think more about in the coming days, weeks or months.

I also came across this idea, which I love, love, love. As a single parent, I often feel our days are so full of just getting through the necessary tasks to live that we lose sight of the fun and magic in life, and in this season. While I obviously didn’t do this in time to start on December 1st, I think I’ll work on it to start on the 14th, making it the 12 Days of Christmas. And if it goes over well, we’ll do it for the full 24 next year.

What other traditions does your family follow?

Letter to Me

I’m a big country music fan, and Brad Paisley is one of my favorite artists (plus he’s really cute!). He has a new song on the airwaves right now that really speaks to me. I can’t even explain it – but I tear up everytime I hear it. You can click here to read the lyrics, but it’s basically a grown man writing a letter to himself at 17 about the things he’s learned and a reassurance that things turned out just fine. It’s a cool concept – and I wondered what kind of letter I might write to my 17-year-old-self…

Dear Me,

I’m writing to you from nearly 30 years in the future. You haven’t even lived that long yet and I know it feels like an impossible time. It’ll go faster than you think.

Cherish your sister – a tragedy is around the corner and she won’t be around much longer – soak her up while you can.

That boy you think is perfect? He’s not worth the energy you’ve put into him. Let him go. You’ll love and be loved in the future in ways you can’t even imagine right now.

You’re not going to get into the college of your choice. It’s OK. But you don’t have to settle for the state school either. I think you got afraid of being outclassed and chose the easy way. You can do anything.

Travel, girl! You were raised by conventional parents, and learned a lot of good values from them. But forget about buying the house at 23 – fly around the world! Twice! Learn a language, stretch your boundaries. You don’t have to take the safe route all the time.

Stay with dad. Till the end. You’ll be exhausted and not think you can take it anymore, but it’ll only be another few hours. You won’t regret it.